Category Archives: Nature


I grew up with an interest in nature. I think most kids from my childhood did, and I credit my Mom for telling me to get my hinder outside and don’t come in until supper. Just you, a couple of your besties from the neighborhood and the great outdoors. Mandated by our Mothers, we were forced into freedom to be kids and it was glorious. However, for every freedom given, there’s a bit of penance due. When it was supper time, I trudged into the house, muddy and quite often bleeding, but smiling all the same. A vigorous wash up was inflicted upon me, and the family sat down to supper, which mostly consisted of a hamburger something and canned vegetables. I didn’t mind so much the beef component, but mushy canned veggies were no bueno in my book and I spent some long, lonely hours at the table, sullenly staring at the hideous things until my dear old Dad would tell Mom to give it a rest and let the boy just go to bed. My dear Mother, being 102 pounds of rompin stompin German, did not always relent with demure grace.

Kinda got side-tracked a bit there. Let’s see, nature, meaning bugs and furry/feathered/scaly things. I like ‘em. So does the Mrs. She’s the only woman I know that likes spiders and snakes. I’ve brought, more than once, so called deadly serpents into the house to show her, and she just about gave me that “come hither look.” The flip side of that is that I’ve had grown men visibly quail at the mere mention of snakes and I’ve been forced to take a notch out of their Man card because of their Nancy boy ways. I have a feeling that those dudes might have liked canned vegetables a little bit too much in their youth.

Living in an old house, out on the wild Kansas prairie, requires lots of work. If you’re lucky, sometimes you’ll get a local or two showing up to help out and that’s much appreciated. We just put new windows in the stone part of the house and these modern things only have half a screen that likes to hang tough on the bottom half of the window. I like half screens because I quite often am taking pictures of some cool thing through the window and glass is a whole lot more transparent than a screen plus glass. The down side to that is when the screen is in the upright and locked position of the upper half, it leaves a small gap between the 2 window panes, where enterprising bugs can wiggle through. And lately that’s been fire flies. We get fire flies in the kitchen when I get up at some ungodly hour and next thing you know, they are blinking right in my face, which is sorta cool, but not when you get a half dozen of them hanging around waiting for dark and looking a lot like cockroaches. (Editor’s note: fire flies are what some of us call lightning bugs.) (Author’s note: people who like to pretend that they’ve been magically born and raised in the South and/or like to use Southern euphemisms to put on aires, are kinda silly.)

Anyhow, I was working myself up to a “final solution” when a cute little hunting spider crawled through the bug gap and proceeded to dine on excess blinky bugs. You can’t turn down help like that and he was invited to stay. Now and then, he would tend to wander, but a little judicious spider wrangling was employed and now he lives in the North kitchen window and handles all our minor bug problems.

The outside of the house had a volunteer, in fact 2 of them. Our South side door has an old wooden deck that hides lots of crawly things that just love to sneak in the house. Sweet Pea would take an interest, now and then, but lately, it’s been too hot and he just lays around all wilted from the heat. I stepped outside the other day and just about stepped on our 1st helper, a collared lizard. These guys drive the dog crazy, but they must have some German in them, as they are still hanging around, looking surly. Since this big and truculent looking bad boy showed up, the amount of buggage that has tried to enter the house has dropped to only wasps and hornets. I don’t mind them, cause it’s lots of fun running though the house, swinging at whatever flying menace has dared to enter the zone of doom. Bugs may fly in, but they get carried out, most often in kleenex.

The second guy that showed up to help (this is almost getting like a Home Depot parking lot) was something that most of you will loose your sh*t over, but you needn’t be so silly. He was on the path from the house to the parking area. A path created mostly by my wife, because she is convinced that chiggers, the bane of our rural existence, are in all the grass and hence she walks this path enough to practically make it dirt. So, this guy was in the path when she went out to get the mail. She ran back in and said come out quickly to see this, and I did. A beauty of a gopher snake was placidly sunning himself and I asked if he was from around these parts. He didn’t say much, just stuck his black forked tongue out a few time and I took that for a yup. Since I had him in a chatty mood, I mentioned that we happen have lots of mice and rats that needed killin. Again with the tongue. These boys are not noted conversationalists, but we struck a deal and that is good, cause my truck is in the shop again for something chewing on wires, and that is starting to rile me some. These snakes are the most common in Kansas and eat lots of mice and rats and many other pest-like things. Probably the most beneficial animal on the whole property, not counting my wife of course. You take your help where you can find them and be dang thankful that these guys are local and you don’t have to worry about them getting weirdo ideas like trying to change our home and ways to their home and ways, which they left. You may be thinking Californians and they’re a problem, but home grown, no matter how goofy. We’re moving to Minnesota and nobody wants to talk about the elephant or camel in the land of 10,000 lakes. Oops, did that slip out? I thought I was talking to myself again. Gonna be an interesting move.

I’ll leave you with more info on this cool snake. Try to not act like you’re 3 again and monsters are going to eat you. You’ll have a lot less stress in your life. You’re welcome ;~)

The Gopher Snake, also known as the Bullsnake, is harmless. It is the largest snake in Kansas, growing up to 8 feet in length. It has keeled scales; a pattern of 33–73 large brown or black blotches on a brownish yellow body. Tail with alternating yellow and black bands. Belly yellowish with variable black mottling. Young same as adults. Lives in open grasslands as well as open woodland and woodland edge; common in cultivated fields where there is an abundance of rodents. Active from April to November; generally diurnal, basking in the sun or foraging for food, but becomes nocturnal during hot summer months. Number of eggs per clutch ranges from 3-22. Constrictor. It is the most economically beneficial snake in Kansas, consuming large quantities of rodents and saving farmers from much grain loss; also eats pocket gophers, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds and bird eggs. Emits a loud “hiss” when disturbed or frightened.

Birthday Boy

Today is Sweet Pea’s 5th birthday. And as a dog that likes to live each day as the best day ever, he started early by eating some lizards and barfing all over the dining room floor in the wee hours of the night. It has become a spring ritual of sorts. First bunnies, lizards, wood rats or what have you of the warm season, over-indulge and spend the next few weeks with you and the alpha dog that opens the door to let you out, getting less sleep than optimal. No worries though, you’ve got a comfy couch and fluffy pillow to power nap on, and hit the afternoon like you mean it. The alpha chick that cleans up after him, had a bit of curl to her lip this morning. Consequently, dog and I will be spending the majority of our day communing with nature, for our health, dontchaknow. Scandi babes on the warpath are not to be trifled with.

Last day of April

I took my spiffy new drone up for a quick look at the neighborhood yesterday. According to the media pundits, the end times were upon us and I wanted one last flight before having to stand at the pearly gates and explain several questionable things I had done during my short 58 years on planet earth.

The weather was having a bi-polar moment, giving us highs in the low 40’s and lots of rain, but to the west of us 100 miles or so, they had a full out blizzard, with 14 to 20 inches of snow. You expect that kind of thing in Minnesota, Western Kansas, not so much. I guess since we did not have much of a winter this year, with February being warmer than March, Ma Nature decided to tie one on and make us pay for her hangover.

From the air, all the turned ground was awash with water, so I guess the farmers should be happy, unless you were one of those guys that kinda put off doing any dirt work till next week. Kansas has a habit of forgetting to stop raining some times. The tardy guys might have to wait until July to do what they should have done without hip boots.

The new drone was a joy to fly. I upgraded to a semi pro version of what I had and am happy with the results. This one has a better camera and can power through wind and still keep smiling. I couldn’t resist zooming Sweet Pea the dog as I brought it home. Ole Pea wanted to play tag with it, but I told him to sit and be a good boy, which he does so well.

Bunch of stuff

It’s been a while, and a bunch of stuff has happened since my last post. I know all of you have been wondering what’s up, all three of you, so here goes… The slightly svelte and totally delicious Mrs Chef has returned home. After 8 weeks of vacationing in the frozen north, she came to the conclusion that a firmer hand on the tiller, um, yeah, was needed to get me going, and get out of here.


About 15 minutes after she walked in the door, I handed her the wooden spoon and thereby transferred responsibility for the home and hearth, to her very competent hands. I had a beer to celebrate and she started cleaning. We have different ways to deal with stress, I guess. I thought I had run a pretty tight ship, but guys aren’t always aware of how to organize the silverware just so, so a bit of rejiggering went on, but I was more than happy to compromise on a whole host of issues.

While she was gone, I went and did something I had been wanting to do for quite some time. I had always been interested in photography and had muddled along with middle of the road cameras for many years. Back when I was still working for the school district, I took an interest in RC Aircraft and helped start an RC program at the middle school. Along the way, I made a big score at an auction of about a half dozen old-school RC Airplanes, which are great for hanging on the wall, but need a bit of work to get them in the air any time soon. Then the D word came into my life. Drones. Drones with high end cameras that made me think that it was time to up my game, as it were. And literally I did, up to 1800 feet. Got me a DJI Phantom 3 with a 2.7K HD Video camera, that can also take 12 Megapixel photos. It arrived, and after spending 4 frustrating hours fighting to get the controller and drone to talk to each other, I pulled a rabbit out of my hat at the end to complete the hand shake. After that, it was awesome. In fact, it turned into the classic tale of boy meets drone, boy loves drone, boy loses drone and is devastated. Boy then finds comfort in the propellers of another, better looking, but half priced drone. A modern love story, if there ever was one.

The day I took it up for the first time, we’d been having little thunderstorm cells popping up here and there. As I lifted off, a huge, horizon to horizon rainbow was strutting her stuff and I thought, man this is going to be a great video and, I, uh, forgot to push the record button and had to settle for a teeny little rainbow and had to skedaddle home before my new drone got rained on. The next few days were filled with prairie fires and sunsets. My inner 12 year old was having a grand old time, while I smiled indulgently and plotted my next flight. That got interrupted with a certain much missed female that came back home, and I told my inner 12 year old to take a hike while I reacquainted myself with my wife. Knowing him, he probably peaked.

Then came the day that you read about, but think will never happen to you. It was foggy at sunrise, with different layers of clouds breaking up and looking all dramatic and stuff. I thought I would just run the drone up and get a short video coming up through the cloud layers. There are horror stories of drones just flying away, but these were from sketchy characters, with tattoos and weird tastes in music. You can draw your own conclusions. I was a mature individual with more common sense than these guys could spell. What I didn’t reckon on was my inner 12 year old running the show, with predictable results. About the time it hit 400 feet in altitude, a very strong south wind took control of my little bitty drone and the last I had contact with it, it was 2 miles away and 2000 feet in altitude and rising. It was all over but the shouting, by that time. I won’t even mention me running down the road, pleading for my little drone to come home. The worst part was coming in the house and telling the wife “I’m an idiot.” Not a big surprise to her, I’m sure, but I was pretty bummed. They say the best lessons are the most painful ones. My take on that is, if you ain’t cheating you ain’t tryin’. I spent a few days moping around the house and then got ahold of the boys that sold me the drone. Told them my tale of “whoa!” dropped a few jokes on them, plus one or two pearls of wisdom, and made a deal for a better drone at half the price. My father would have been so proud. Didn’t tell the wife, because her idea of an idiot is someone that does the same stupid thing twice, thinking there will be different results.

The Fed Ex guy pulls into the driveway, I go out to meet him, the wife watches suspiciously from the window and the dog barks because that’s his job. Fed Ex guy asks if I am home in the mornings. I had seen him drive past our place about 10am, it was now 3 pm. I told him I am home all the time, being retired is like that. He gave me the guy look of “you lucky dog” and handed me my new drone. The reason he asked when I was home, is you have to sign for drones in a box. I signed my name, he said congratulations, I told him it’s not all beer and sports watching, I work for my wife now. He said there’s always a down side and drove off into the sunset. I walked into the house and explained how this time, I’m not gonna be an idiot. Uh huh, she said. I fetched my own beer that night. And spent another 2 stupid hours making the controller and drone say hi to each other.

The next day it rained all morning and Sweet Pea was moping around the house, because we gave him tick medicine and because he hates the rain. He finally starts to perk up around 1pm and I let him out and notice him sniffing something in the driveway. It looked like a dead squirrel at first, and I wondered why the wife hadn’t mentioned stepping over a dead squirrel when getting the mail. I looked again and saw that it’s a snapping turtle the dog is nosing. I run out and yell for him to get away from that thing. Luckily, the turtle had his head tucked in his shell and wasn’t the angry type. The dog decided he better listen to me and I hustled him into the house. We already have one big idiot living here, no need to add to that number with a dog playing Where’s Waldo with a snapping turtle and losing.

Spring Sunrise

One of the things I love about living on the prairie is the spring sunrise. Quite often the always-present breeze has dropped off to almost nothing, and now you can hear the Barred owl hooting softly, down in the draw to the South East, with a haunting echo. Tom Turkeys are calling behind our ridge, and since spring is the burning season, the sky is softened with smoke and brings brilliance to even the most boring sunrise.

From our house, you can look to the East, where the lay of the land drops some 40 feet down into the valley and we get a beautiful view from straight down our driveway, of the sun or moon rising. Often the view includes a couple White-tailed Deer, a slinking, thieving Coyote, even a Bobcat every now and then.

Sky on Fire 2
Sky on Fire 1

It seems as soon as the sun has risen, the wind picks up, washing out all the quiet sounds, and you start squinting at the dust being blown into your face. And if you stand there long enough, sure as the sun shines, you’re gonna pick up some chigger bites. That ought to be a good enough reminder that you’ve got no business standing around, getting all dewy eyed over mean Mr. Sol. Daylight’s burning, and you best get busy if you want to get done here and get back home to Minnesota for the fishing opener and mosquito season. I’ll take mosquitos over chiggers any day. Summer up there, is only a couple of months long and the rest of the year is bug free. You’re not gonna get that kind of love, down here in Kansas. Now where’d I put that anti-itch cream again?

Warmer than normal

Ah spring. The Blue Jays are starting to courtship feed each other, instead of terrorizing the small birds and stealing their lunch money. Mourning Dove males have begun beating the snot out of their females. Birds of peace, dontcha know. And the Henbit is growing with such enthusiasm, it’s practically begging for a spritz of 2, 4-D.

We’re a month ahead of schedule this year. It’s been 80 degrees a couple of times already since late February and my fruit trees are in full bloom, right on time for a killing freeze that will insure that no plums or pears will be had this year. Just like last year and the year before. The stupid trees seem to be enthusiastic supporters of the earlier the better philosophy of blooming, and miss it every dang time. Ma Nature is a mean old crab.

Also, the whole Doves as symbols of peace is a load a bird poop from my point of view. Mourning Dove males start chatting up and pursuing females as soon as warmer temperatures start showing up. At first, it’s just stalking the female and being everywhere she is, along with the mysterious phone calls late at night. Soon they start bumping into and crowding their intended victims, and shortly after that, the pecking and wing beating begins. They end up hounding the females to the point that I’ve been tempted to open a home for abused females of the Dove tribe. I looked online for information from other birdie weirdos, to see if they are seeing the same things that I am in my backyard. Nope, nothin’. Just waxing lyrical about the gentle dove and cooing and, I don’t know. Am I supposed to believe these anonymous fan boys on the web, or my lying eyes?

Or maybe I have some weird strain of Muslim Mourning Doves. With everything wacky in the world today, it wouldn’t be a stretch of your cognitive processes to ponder the possibility. I’m dropping a lot of “p’s” on you there, so you know it’s got to be semi legit. It also occurred to me that living in the sticks, miles from anywhere, with only a dog and cat to talk to has skewed my rational thinking to the point of anthropomorphizing about birds that like to beat  their mates, maybe converting to a religion that endorses that kind of thing, claiming “no it’s a peaceful beating.” That was a mouthful and nah, I’m not seeing it. However, the old saying, “just cause you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” seems to have a bit more validity as the daze days go by.

While the dog is good company, he really doesn’t hold up his end of the conversation when we get to chatting. Sure, he’ll howl on command and he likes singing with his wild cousins in the wee hours of the morning, but with me, nothing but a bit of whining when he hears the salted nut can getting opened. He’s got a thing for a big ugly nut I don’t care for. Last summer we gave him an antler that we found on our North pasture. Oh man, he was in disbelief that such a fine piece of happy good times was being offered to him, and that old question of “who’s a good boy” had just been answered. Sure, horse hooves and cat turds are fun and all, but an antler was the Skoal Wintergreen of a dog’s chewing pleasure. Immediately after getting it in his mouth, a new game was created. Rhino Tag, where the pointy end of the antler gets to tag you, most often in the uncomfortable zone, after which, checking to see if blood was drawn, you chase the dog around the kitchen table. Much growling and other such nonsense occurs until finally, the boom is lowered by She Who Must Be Obeyed. The dog and I retreat to our respective corners, but end up making faces at each other until one of us can’t stand it anymore and we are off again. Good times, good times until the rolling pin comes out.

Ole Sweet Pea had chewed his antler down to the nubs, and the other day, I had procured a new antler  and thought this would solve the “nothing to chew on but the cat” argument we’d been having. I called him over to me and whipped out the surprise from behind my back. He stood there, wide eyed but confused, holding the old one tight in his mouth and nosing the new one. He’s got a big mouth, when he yawns, his jaws open like a hippopotamus, with plenty of room for the new antler, with deer attached, but that only works when you are willing to unclench your teeth from your favorite chew toy. Being that I have opposable thumbs and all, I was able to conjure a way for him to solve his dilemma. Pry his stubborn double German jaws apart, grab out the old stub and insert new awesome chew toy.

The dog’s a bit thick headed to new concepts, but eventually he saw the method to my madness, as I shoved the new and unsullied antler into his pie hole. A few moments later The Brown Peril had a froth worked up as he went to town on his new favorite chewer. I asked him to smile for a picture, but yeah, whatever dude, I’m chewin’ here. It’s assumed that as soon as the boy has had his fill of gnawing, an impromptu game of full contact Rhino Tag will be initiated, when my back is turn and I’m bent over. You get extra points for sneak attacks and with no troll in the kitchen to rein us in, well, good times!

Absence of wind and trouble begins

I was walking through Walmart, looking for my wife. She had forgotten her cell phone again and now I couldn’t find her. I walked out to the parking lot, thinking she was waiting by the car, and noticed that Walmart’s parking lot was part of the front lawn of my childhood home. That was a little disconcerting, but more so was the fact that our car was no longer in the parking lot and I still couldn’t find my wife. At some point, I looked down and found myself to be fully clothed, so I had that going for me this time, but how was I going to find my wife and get home? I heard someone talking to me and turned around to see Uncle Jerry, my wife’s uncle, asking me if I heard that.


He asked again, “did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” I asked him, wondering if he knew where my wife and car were. He shook his head at me like I was stupid and pointed at my forehead and slowly, like he was talking to a retard, asked one more time

“do    you    hear    that?”

And finally I did. Or didn’t, because what I didn’t hear was the wind howling like it had been, but there was a sound I couldn’t place, so I guess that’s what Uncle Jerry was asking about. I opened my eyes and concentrated on the sound. It took me a minute, because this was not one of those sounds I had stored in my “what’s that sound” bin of my mind. It turned out to be Ms. Kitty snoring. I looked at the clock and it was 1:30am. Way too early to get up, and I still had a bit of angst over not finding my wife, but she was fast asleep in Minnesota, so mystery solved.

If you were thinking of Ms. Kitty as some weird reference to a certain middle aged hooker on the TV show Gunsmoke, and I’m just being all cutesy with how I refer to who I’m sleeping with, just stop that line of thought right there, buster. Ms. Kitty is my son’s cat. You guys have a pervy line of thought sometimes. I am taking care of his cat for a bit and I think her original name was Mary Jane, but we’re not having any Mary Jane in this house, so she became Ms. Kitty. Sweet Pea is not a cat loving dog, so the two of them are kept on separate floors of the house. Ms. Kitty is used to dogs and is getting a bit insistent on coming down stairs and saying hi, but I don’t need that kind of drama in my life right now, so the cat don’t get to meet the dog and the dog don’t get to eat the cat.

Finally got back to sleep after telling the cat to put a sock in it and it was blessedly peaceful, not having the wind try to blow the roof off the house. 4:30am comes and daylight’s wastin’. Never been one to linger in bed. I’m a morning guy and like to get busy as early as I can.

I had made a breakfast bake the day before, so I would not have to hassle with making breakfast every morning. Put a piece of it in the toaster oven and 10 minutes later, you’ve got breakfast. Now that the wife’s not here, I can eat like a savage and by that, I mean right off the warming tray of the toaster oven. I have to have some Rooster Sauce on it, but when you leave the sriracha on the table without opening the top, you get a temperature inversion which causes a buildup of pressure in the container and when you open it to apply to your breakfast, it helpfully sauces you before you can sauce your breakfast. I’ve had to wipe it off the ceiling, in times past.

I put Sweet Pea out after his breakfast, so he didn’t end up burping a little to vigorously, all over the carpet, like he likes to do. It was 4:45am and while he was out, I sat sipping my coffee and reading the latest lunacy being shouted over the web. My dog starts to barking at something, which is nothing new, but continues to bark with the sound receding. That interesting little doppler effect means he’s yapping and running in the dark. That’s the dog equivalent of us running with scissors. I jump up, slopping my coffee on the table, happy my wife’s not here to hear what I just said, and go outside to call him back to the house. Normally he is really good at returning to my call, IF his nose has returned total control back to his brain. This sometimes takes some convincing.

I give out 3 booming calls for him to come home and then start coughing like I’m gonna hack up a lung. My nearest neighbor is a half mile away, and I am pretty sure they heard me. Their dogs did, and now they start barking too. I don’t see my dog and walk to the end of the deck, thinking about calling again, but now I see him standing near the shop, looking at something in the front pasture.

There’s movement off in the dark towards where his nose is pointed, and I now see 2 other canines milling around, about 40 feet from Sweet Pea and just out of clear view of the yard light. I call him again and he comes to me. The 2 dogs look my way, and I’m thinking these guys are possibly some of my neighbors dogs, so I call them too, because I don’t want neighbors dogs running loose and getting in to trouble. They ignore me and are turning in circles, sniffing things, edging closer to the yard light. At that point, I notice they’re not just dogs, but coyotes. I had heard them yipping about a half hour ago. These stinkin’ thievin’ coyotes had followed my dog up the driveway, and did not spook like normal stinkin’ thievin’ coyotes would when they heard me. That’s bad juju. If these boys keep pushing their luck, a little prairie justice, old testament style, may be heading their way at 1200 feet per second. Hot lead for breakfast will make up for them making me spill my coffee on the table. I mean, somebody has to atone for that, right? But it’s nice to not have the wind howling any more, so I go in the house and clean up the coffee. Kinda miss my wife right now.

Keep a shovel handy

When we bought this place, the living room had a large 1950’s picture window on the North side of the house. The window, like just about everything else here, never got the attention or maintenance it needed for the last 60 years and was in quite a state when it became my problem. Plan A was to rebuild the window because it is double hung and retro cool, but it was too far gone when its turn came up, and Plan B was invoked. We had a local glass guy come out and measure the hole in the wall, and come back a week later to stick a big piece of glass in the hole. 4 screws and a little silicone caulk, now we had a huge chunk of insulated window that made it look like we still had a big hole in our North wall.

Great for us, as it really opened up the view of the backyard and I immediately saw that I needed to mow the lawn. So, maybe not all that great after all. This was in the winter and yes Kansas winters are warm enough lately that mowing could still be an issue. I had not yet put up any bird feeders so the cheat grass was left in peace. (Cheat grass is a weed that has invaded this part of the prairie, grows quickly and is a source of early spring grass fires.)

Then spring came and with it thoughts of… hey, let’s put up a bird feeder and see what shows up. You were thinking maybe I was gonna mention spring inspired thoughts of romance and such? Look, I’m at the far end of 5 decades and when spring gets here, A: I am just happy I survived the winter, B: Spring’s here, now I gotta mow the damn lawn and get chigger bites. Not a lot of romance happens when you’re continually scratching yourself.

So, I built a bird feeder in the classic style and also made a platform feeder for the picky birds that don’t want to hang with the itty bitty birds, as it harshes their Tao, man. It took awhile for anybody to show up, and then awhile longer for word of beak to spread the news that a hip new food joint opened up and it’s all buffet all the time.

And that’s when the trouble started. We’d be sitting in the kitchen, the Mrs watching some angsty drama queen comedy on her laptop, while I was plumbing the depths of youtube on how to make an autonomous robotic snowblower with Radio Shack parts and some duct tape. All of a sudden thwonk! The distinct sound of bird flesh smacking into something “see through but solid.” Sweet Pea the dog jumped up and demanded to go outside and investigate, I announced that a bird hit our picture window, and the wife, who likes to concentrate real hard on things, looked up 5 minutes later and went “What?” Never mind, dear.

Now normally, a bird will smack into a window, bounce off, look around to see if anybody saw that, and fly off with more than a hint of embarrassment in the set of their wings. However, there was a day about a month ago, the 2 feeders were standing room only and hopping, plus there were also at least 3 dozen Robins on the ground, eating juniper berries. Robins don’t eat at the feeders. I don’t know if it’s too low class for them or they prefer something a little more ethnic or what. They pretty much stay on the ground and grub for hackberries and other things that appeal to their exotic palette. Suddenly, all the birds took off in every which direction, which they like to do now and then. One of those directions happened to be our big window. End result, one Robin, pining for the fiords, as the saying goes.

A week or so after that, a dapper and cute as a bugs ear Cedar Waxwing does a head on with our kitchen window. No rhyme or reason. Possibly it was an avian take on rolling off the travois as the rest of the tribe pretends not to notice and moves on. For those of you who slept through American History, that was one of the ways that elderly Native Americans used to not burden the rest of the tribe and go out on their own terms. Tough love, eh?

The dog, who loves living things, dead things and smelly things, can’t bring himself to bothering these guys. I guess he just doesn’t like rolling in stupid, which is kinda funny as stupid is what most dogs do for a living. And, it’s not like these avian knuckleheads were stacking up like cord wood, but enough that a less hardy soul might think about wearing a hard hat when wandering around the great outdoors. Don’t come to the prairie, Mother Gaia doesn’t care that you eat lentil greens and sport eco-friendly slogans on your local sourced and oh so hip T-shirt. She will kill you. At which point it becomes another shovel ready project or as I like to tell the dog, more tough love, to love. Sweet Pea has learned he gets a treat when he gives me a discreet golf clap.

Then yesterday, the dog and I, as the Mrs had up and left us for a colder climate, so just us lonely and forlorn beings heard a rather large boom on our picture window. The dog looks at me with a “crap, not again, and when is Mom coming home?” look. I just shake my head at him with a “Mom ain’t coming home ever again” look and go outside to see whose number was up. It turned out to be one of our beautiful Red Bellied Woodpeckers. We have several in the neighborhood and they have an endearing trait of dive bombing Blue Jays and just acting large and in charge when at the buffet. One of the males was laying in a heap, about 10 feet from the window. That was quite a bounce and he even left a feathered imprint; a little wad of downey feathers was stuck to the glass. I walked over to him and gave him a look over to see if I needed to bring the shovel. This is a fairly big bird and woodpeckers are built to take some abuse. While I was eyeing him, he sort of gathered himself up and glared at me, so I backed off. I didn’t want to freak him out any more than he already was, and told him to walk it off. That’s what the coach always told us. Walk it off. You could have a compound fracture of a leg or have an eye hanging out in the wrong place, just walk it off. Some of my best scars and broken parts, I just walked off with a little bit of jumping around and cursing, because dang, that hurt!

It took a good 35 minutes but by golly, he finally got his marbles put back in order and flew off. A little wobbly, but he made it to where he was going. And later that evening, I noticed him chowing down at the platform feeder. How did I know it was him? He had a crazy glint to his eyes and had a ruffled mark on his head that was still ruffled. I notice the other birds giving him a wide berth. Don’t mess with crazy.

I guess glass is Mother Gaia’s way of telling her feathered children they’re not all that special. To put it in the vernacular of prairie redneck, “if it’s clear and see through, you can’t get there from here, son.”

Shopping for Compromise

Interesting discovery today. While driving to town to get a spark plug for the “I don’t want to start even if Tirethere’s an ice storm warning” generator, the car went ding and a low tire graphic came up between the tachometer and speedometer. Hmm. That was a new one on me. My truck usually goes thump thump thump to let me know I need air, but me and my truck are old school.

The Mrs decides we need to address the low tire issue with a trip to Wally World. She likes to multi task by having them fix her tire while she walks through every isle to purchase maybe two items and put some miles in.

orang-hatWhich left me in a tough spot. I was all dolled up in my winter finery. Insulated overalls, 3 layers of sweat shirts, a vest, ratty old camouflage coat and spiffy orange knit hat. It weighs in, with the steel toe boots and warm winter socks, at around 18 pounds. If fact, I think it puts me at what I used to weigh, before retiring and working my hinder off.Boots

But, being the dutiful husband, I’ve realized long ago, one needs to compromise every now and then, if you expect to keep getting coffee served precisely at 1PM, and a few side benefits. I mean spicy chocolate dollops, not what you’re thinking. Well, sometimes the other things.

So, I slogged along, trying to not make eye contact with the diverse selection of humanity that Walmart always provides, at no extra cost. As mentioned above, Southern Kansas is under an ice storm warning. I was fully expecting to see the chip and frozen pizza shelves emptied and the front check outs with lines of desperate shoppers with 1000 yard stares.

Nope, the store wasn’t even much populated, but then I remembered that it was 1PM on a Friday and most people are still at work. The goal then was to be out of the store before the zombie apocalypse arrived.

We wandered the store, the wife perfectly content, I following along, wondering why 18 pounds of clothes felt like a struggle. We paused at a intersection, the Mrs perkily asked where I would like to go. To the pharmacy, I said. Why? To see if they are handing out free samples of mind numbing narcotics. She frowned and plodded on.

Finally, we parked ourselves on the bench near the desk for the tire shop. This is also the back door to Walmart. Only opens from the outside. As I sat there, I noticed a curious phenomenon. I counted more than a half dozen men coming in through that door. They would disappear into the store and as men are wont to do, shop quickly and come back to the desk of the tire shop, have the tire lady ring them up and out the door they went. So, guys, perhaps anti social shut ins like myself, choose to do their shopping and slip out the back door without hassling with all the hubbub and chaos at the front check outs. Being I don’t get out much, this was news to me. Guys being guys, I would assume if Walmart offered a drive through window for shopping, it would be dude central with a line going around the block. I saluted my Spark-Plugtaciturn brothers for their cutting to the chase and eliminating the unneeded social interaction with just about everybody but the tire lady at the back of the store. They did have to beg to be let out the in-only door, but as I said, we all have to compromise at times.
The wife cajoled me into buying a spark plug that was close to what I wanted. I knew it would work and since I was gracious enough to be talked into a spark plug that was close enough, she didn’t squawk much when I dragged her to the bench and told her we sit now and be quiet. I have a feeling coffee might be a bit late tomorrow. And, if we get all the ice they are talking about, in the dark too. Our compromise with Mr Generator, who wants to sit this one out.Sweet-Pea-and-Boots

Air Raid

So we’re sitting here at the kitchen table, having some coffee after lunch. I sit facing North, the Mrs faces, um, to the South East. I’ve never been able to get her lined up properly. My view out the window is of the bird feeders and the back stone wall. The bird feeders are very active this time of day and interesting to watch. Beyond the bird feeders and stone wall, there are a few trees and eventually it peters out to blue sky. Our house sits on the East shoulder of a stone ridge that runs South to North through our 20 acres. When I look out the window, I’m looking uphill.

As I was zoning robinsout, looking at the 3 dozen Robins grubbing around for juniper berries, and the many Cardinals, Juncos and Sparrows jockeying for the best space at the food trough, I saw something off to the North in blue sky land. It was huge, it looked like a B-52 coming in for a bombing run. At that moment, all the birds hit the panic button and left the scene. By this time I confirmed it was a bird and not a Stratofortress heading our way. And what a bird. A Bald Eagle. He casually cruised over the property b-52and headed off to the South. He was slow enough that the Mrs got a look at him, which is rare, due to her inability to react to my shout that a meteor is heading directly towards her and she better….
eagleYou get the idea. We both got a good look and no, I did not get a picture. Words will have to do ya this time. I don’t get paid enough to be your photographer.

For people who see these birds a lot, it may not be that interesting, but we still get a thrill seeing these huge, recognizable symbols of our Country. I’d break into singing America the Beautiful or something, but I wouldn’t be doing you any favors and would probably scare any other Eagle out of the county.