Sunday, November 23, 2014


I started filling my bird feeder a few weeks ago.  The birds have come in abundance, but it is strange, a pint scoop of bird food lasts three days right now.  Last year, I put out that much before breakfast and it would be gone by lunchtime.  The difference seems to be the squirrels.  Last year they were brazen, three of them hanging about the feeder, one swinging  and spinning on the feeder like it is an amusement park ride and two underneath enjoying the bounty sprinkling down upon them.  Then they frisked about, ran up and down the tree and tussled in the yard.

This year there are squirrels, but they are behaving differently.  They hide.  The sneak.  They scoot from one point of cover to the next.  They are acting like the prey that they are. I'm guessing either the hawks have been voracious or a neighbor has a BB gun.  Whatever it is, the birds are able to eat the food that I put out for them.

So far this year, the usual birds, cardinals, juncos, chickadees-both Carolina and blackcapped, bluejays, nuthatches.  The titmice have been hanging out at the picture window making faces at the cats on the other side of the glass, teasing, usually the wrens do that.  The cats tightly swish the tips of their tails and make their "eh-eh-eh" hunting sounds and bonk their heads on the glass as they try to fire themselves through it.  They recover with their usual, "I meant to do that. I knew what I was doing, really." look.  I swear I heard the titmice  snickering.

The crows are strange.  They appear around the hedges from the neighbor's yard and slowly walk, like middle school kids, in a loose bunch, talking amongst themselves.  The stroll down the hill, about 50 feet, and then eat some of the millet  that has spilled on the ground under the feeder. Some days they pick at the ground to eat other things.  When they are done, they gather together and slowly walk back up the hill and disappear back around the hedge.  There are other groups of crows that fly in, but this bunch likes to hoof it. Strange.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pros and Cons of a Polar Vortex and my "To Do" list

The Polar Vortex is heading this way again facilitating a chore that I have been postponing for chilly weather, insulating the crawlspace under the house.  It could be done in warmer weather, but I choose not to for serious reasons. 

First, I put on one of those Tyvek suits to keep those itchy bits of fiber glass out of my clothes and it is rather warm in there. 

Second, the chilly temperatures change the critters out and about, namely snakes.  I've seen a ginormous king snake, a couple of rat snakes and the creme de la creme of giving me the willies, the copperhead.  The king snake, I know, is harmless, but he/she is so big that it really doesn't matter that I know it is harmless.  The rat snakes and I seem to have worked out a bit of an agreement that they stay out of my way and I'll stay out of theirs, but they keep shedding their skins just to the west of the foundation of the house, so I know that they are still there.  Then there was that little bitty copperhead, the problem with little bitty snakes is that odds are their siblings are also nearby.  The venomous bit isn't exactly a selling point either.  The polar winds will blow and those legless reptiles will wiggle their way into their little holes in the ground and stay there until spring.  Works for me.

Before the polar vortex gets here, I had a few things to get done. This morning, I patched the fault line that had formed in our driveway.  It had filled with weeds and bits of soil and to my surprise, many, many earthworms.  I cleaned it out and patched it.  I loved the instructions on the package that told me that if I didn't feel like renting a tamper, I could always drive the car back and forth over it.  So, with my little Scion, I tamped it.  Doing the pot hole that had formed on the shared part of the driveway was more fun to tamp, it is on a pretty steep incline and I have a five speed car.  Going back and forth over it, having to gun it a bit to pull back up the hill may have entertained the neighbors a little.

Later today my daughter and I will dig up the dahlia corms.  A month ago I should have dug up the irises that need to be divided, but I didn't, maybe that will happen also.  The daffodils need relocating will be dark before it all happens.  Tomorrow is still supposed to be nice, the list will carry over.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Quests for Mincemeat and Currants

The holiday season approaches and as with many holidays past, I would like some of my family's traditional foods.  The problem is that after so many generations the ingredients are getting harder and harder to find.

My family has a policy, we eat no fruitcake other than that someone in the family has made from the family recipe, otherwise who knows what we might be eating.  This year I'm going to give it a try.  I did it a few years back with my mom in Massachusetts, but this effort is to be all on my own.  Except, she has had to help me a bit.  Currants are not to be found in this area, I've checked all the stores.  So, after a few discussions, she located a box and mailed it to me.

The other item we perennially have an issue with is mincemeat. Now I know there are many folks out there who haven't a clue as to what this mysterious stuff is, in fact I spoke with many of them in my search.    At each grocery store where I inquired I was faced with a quizzical look, "Oh, you'll find that in the meat department."  Nope.  I'm not talking ground beef or pork or chicken or meatloaf mix, I'm talking good old raisins, apples and suet, yep, suet.  After a brief discussion, I'm usually asked what the heck would anyone do with that stuff.   

 Once I have found an employee who knows what the stuff is, then I spring on them that only the boxed stuff will do, the mincemeat in a jar has funky thickeners and an an extra bit of flavoring that no one in the family finds appealing.  The grocery clerks scratch their heads trying to get their brain around how anyone would box the mush that comes in a jar. (It's all dried, it needs to be rehydrated before using.) Out come the handheld inventory computers and the cell phones to the folks in distribution.  Everyone seems really puzzled by all of this.  I stumbled upon the right employee in Safeway, my fourth grocery.  After four other clerks hadn't a clue, she pipes up, "Oh that's back in the dairy section on the end cap."  The mystified four all drop their jaws, astounded that this stuff made of raisins, apples and suet is real.  We took a walk to the far back corner where the dairy is always kept, and there it was, next to the jarred stuff.  The clueful clerk noted that the type of tag on the shelf indicated that it was to be discontinued.

I bought eight boxes.  I'll share with my family, a little.The magical filling rivals Twinkies in shelf life, so I know I'm set for a few years, even if a few boxes head north in a suitcase after Thanksgiving.

Pies, lovely pies, I've found there's a bit of a trick.  The package has directions for several different sized pies and how many boxes you'll need to make each pie.  The rule is to make the smallest pie with one box, because the larger pies have the wrong filling to crust ratio.  The big ones are too sweet,  and seem soggy, a small pie gets two crusts and just enough of the filling to go with a cup of tea, without feeling overwhelmed.

It's 3:58 PM, tea sounds like a good idea.