Sunday, March 30, 2008

Winter? Spring? and a little pond surprise


Those who live farther north usually know what to expect regarding weather. Snow, ice, or cold temps until April, with a few warm days in between. Winter is holding on up there, still, but the heady smell of spring drifts by, giving promise. When spring arrives, it will hold on and blossom.


Not so, here in southern North Carolina where winters are milder but spring is a tease. It visits for a few days then Old Man Winter throws a punch. Freeze nips new growth. I had planned to switch my crystal in the kitchen from snowmen to marine mammals this weekend. I’ll postpone it for next weekend, perhaps?


Bare-bellied Bostons don’t adapt well to gray skies and wind chills in the high thirties. Heck, we’re all a bunch of sissies down here. Even golfers cancel tee times if it’s below fifty degrees but Michael will suit up and play in any weather because we’re originally tough northerners. But I will admit my blood has thinned since living here and I chill easily.

The only photos of the weekend:


I stood a few feet away from a Mourning Dove on the front porch. Maybe a little slow-minded, ya think?



His molt is almost complete! I giggled at Iris’s description of Goldfinches as “Flying Lemons”.

I'm going back to Friday when it was seventy-seven degrees before the overnight plunge to thirty-nine.


The pond had its annual cleaning a few days ago. Notice the varied colors of the pond rock and how crystal clear the water is.


The build-up of algae was washed off rocks, the bio-filter was cleaned, and the pond looks bright once again. Soon, the Canna will surround the waterfall and hide the bio-filter, giving it a tropical look. Throughout the year I net debris from the pond but I hired someone to do the heavy cleaning. It’s worth saving my back and the knowledge I gain from a pro.


Notice that I choose small areas of the pond to photograph, because, believe me, the weeds are dreadful and the flowers have not yet begun to bloom. There’s a real mess to clean up. That’s a job I look forward to soon.


Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a garden snake slither across the water surface, smooth as glass. Small - less than eighteen inches.


Harmless? To humans, yes. To tadpoles, no. To Koi, probably not. To small goldfish, yes. If I should see it again, I might get the rake and a bucket to relocate the cute thing. You see, I enjoy tadpoles, bullfrogs, and toads too much. Thoughts on or experiences with garden snakes in ponds are welcome!

Michael and I headed to south Charlotte in the rain yesterday to visit the best pond supply store and nursery in the area. I only wanted to purchase some plants and bacteria (and browse...). It was an eighty-mile round trip and Mapquest screwed up the directions. Being lost for a good twenty minutes gave us a nice tour of upscale Ballantyne. That wasn't enough frustration. We arrived at the nursery a week too early for plants and bacteria! Without making a purchase, I skipped in the drizzling rain to keep up with the impatient and irritated Italian who rushed out of the place. He was already in the truck with the engine running when I snatched up a crisp twenty dollar bill from a small evergreen near the sidewalk. Climbing into the passenger side of the truck I said, “Did you lose any money? Count your twenties.” Without pause, out came the money clip and he flipped through, “No.” I said, “Good, the twenty is MINE!”


Best photo of the week – taken on Friday while it was almost eighty degrees. Bumble Bee had a crush on me, or my sweet perfume.

Davidson just lost by one basket (ugh) and Gina quizzed me in basketball:

It's Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four, right? Go Tarheels!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Working hard for peanuts!


The peanuts win the popular vote when the Zick dough is gone. This inexpensive peanut feeder gets the best bang for the buck here. I took some photos this week and some of them made me laugh out loud, just when I needed some simple entertainment in the late afternoon and evening.


Carolina Chickadees watch each other, fearlessly.

If you’ve been following me, the week is over and my deadlines have been met. Now it’s the start of another two months of budget prep for 08-09. The worst is behind me, I hope.



It’s common, but very peculiar, that a task of high importance, i.e. budgets, is charged to upper management but invariably drifts down to the worker bees like me. I know the details of encumbrances and budgets but those I report to don’t have a clue about the b-word…because to them, it’s a hassle, it causes stress, and may cause eye-twitching. Oh, the bother!


I love watching nuthatches’ acrobatics. The brown-headed ones are very skilled.

The scissor-billed white-breasted one prefers Zick dough.

Overseeing and managing their budgets is expected of them, as stated in their job descriptions. The worker bees are asked to assume the responsibility, regardless of their low rank and wages. We should not be making decisions on behalf of those who are completely unaccountable.


The perfect shot of a Downy with a wad of Zick dough was incredibly out of focus. I really wanted that photo! So I got nuts.

Can the worker bees refuse to assume the bulk of the decision-making and work? Sure. Not a good idea, though, if you want peace in the workplace.


Tufted Titmouse was shocked, then

offered me another view.

There is always a temptation for me to botch up and screw up and mess up the whole damned process so badly that they’ll leave me alone next time. Hey, it works for some! It’s just not an option for me, unfortunately. My work is a reflection of who I am. No matter where you are located on the organizational chart, there is always someone above you dumping a bucket of crap into your office.

A good friend at the office made a nice comment to me today. We are about the same age and had a hilarious discussion about aging, facial hair, and wrinkles. He said sincerely, “You look like you’re in your forties.” Akkk! He didn’t say thirties! Ha! The last time I heard a compliment like that was when I was thirty-something and could pass for twenties. Seems like yesterday, you know…big, big, sigh… It wasn’t a realistic observation he made, but nice to hear all the same.

So I drove away from work feeling all chicky with my cool shades on. Got home and found dog vomit on the carpet. Got busy and made Zick dough – four times the recipe.



The other feeders attract some cuties, too.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Carolina Wren Came for Dinner, and more


Right after dinner, “Bird in the house! There’s a bird in the house!”, Michael exclaimed, while Bella raced from room to room in pursuit. Yesterday, I was sitting right here at the computer talking on the phone and the little Carolina Wren flew into my blogging territory to visit me. Perhaps she wanted to be featured on my blog post.

It’s a good thing there are double doors leading into this room. Quietly and slowly, I closed them while little Wren fluttered from window blinds to rest on top of pictures on the wall…so stressed with its bill gaping open.

On the outside, Michael bellowed, “Do you need help?” I put my lips to the crack in the door and ordered in a low, husky voice, “Shhhhhh. You’re startling her. Be QUIET.” And so he remained quiet.

In slow motion, making hardly a sound, I raised the blinds and the windows and stood in the corner of the room. She made a few attempts to escape but only hung onto the blinds. I could have taken an opportunity for a lengthy photo shoot but I wanted to let her out of her misery, more. I whispered, “Go, little wren!”


And she did. In one minute she was free.

Remembering when doors had been open, she could have been in the house for an hour, or for twenty minutes. Carolina Wrens have tried to nest in my garage and have flown into the sunroom occasionally but I’ve never had a bird come for dinner!

So the week has been hell but I won’t dwell…I’ll make my budget deadlines, but until then, I’m pretty crabby and tired. I convinced myself to stop at the grocery store pond on the way home tonight. Driving by it, I didn’t see anything of interest and sulked but I’m glad I forced my tired self to get out of the damned car for a few minutes and look around. In only fifteen minutes I enjoyed







On the way to the pond I sang along with the radio, I Could Not Ask For More by Edwin McCain. Holding my camera, I stood at the fence overlooking the pond while these lyrics sounded in my head,

These are the moments I thank God that I'm alive
These are the moments I'll remember all my life

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chicks, Bunnies, Pups, and a Bird


How many Easter chicks can you eat before your teeth rot and fall out? We didn’t have chocolate bunny ears to break off and enjoy but we had plenty of sugary marshmallows. Right now, they are hard and stale to perfection but I’d have a lot of trouble fitting two in my mouth at once. I just can’t eat another.


This is what I get when I send Michael out for a dessert cake. I adore coconut cake, but I was thinking along the lines of strawberry cheesecake – something with a little dignity, you know?

We’re wearing coats today with an expected freeze overnight. I’m so glad the weekend weather was mild. It gave me some time to browse outdoors and think about work and budgets. Can you believe what I just said? It’s true. I’m not sure if I've been awake in the middle of the night thinking of the budget crunch or if I was dreaming about it. After Friday, I’ll sleep well. I’ll have met the deadline.


My Mom’s roses will bloom around the two-year anniversary of her passing. I thought about her for a while,


but I’m never alone. Bella’s eyes follow me…

It was Mourning Dove time and I was surprised to see female Red Winged Blackbirds with them! Always seeing the males – I've never seen a female until this weekend.


And she was there…


Perhaps I have seen them before and thought they were large brown jobs. The males are fun to watch and hear, so I’m glad to have the females, too.


And she waited…


The Chinese Witch Hazel’s flaming fuchsia is the brightest spot around the house right now. I used to wear fuchsia lipstick. Awwwg.


And she waited…
and when her patience wore thin she began her Hula hoop dance.

This is supposed to be a Nature/Bird blog, but tonight I feel a need to ramble about my pet dogs. More on birds and nature later as I strive to erase numbers from my mind. I need silliness, as I regress... ;o)


If I sat on the deck for eight hours, Bella would sit in front of me for eight hours – her body trembling in anticipation. You see, I am the hula-hoop thrower.

She became intense.


Hear the “Roo!”? Lips pursed, head thrown back. The girl means business.


Chloe thinks Bella is tiring and refuses to join in Hula Hoop Feeva!

Bella’s making me sick…

I give in, laughing, almost every time.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Baffles and Butterflies

Instead of taking advantage of a day off to accomplish work around the house yesterday, I meandered around with my camera and laughed, forgetting to comb my hair until noon. A Sloth, I was. Remembering Good Friday, I planned Orange Ruffie for dinner – the only work I did all day.


Do you laugh at bird behavior? I do. I thought having many Mockingbirds would calm the lonely savage. Instead, there is more very interesting chaos. Wince or smile, it’s an education. They made me laugh.


HA! Two pudgy pigeons arrived. I remember them making love on a rooftop last spring and there's no doubt that I’ll catch them again.

We regard squirrels in different ways but I think most of us find them to be very annoying, especially those of us who have bird feeders. My squirrels visit during spring and summer. They store enough food to make it through winter, thank you. Yesterday, I found great pleasure and a few laughs…


Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. The best black oil sunflower around…


Uh-oh. Why, hello lady! Remember me?


If I may say so, you have the best feeder in the town.

She is not yelling, yet. Hmmm… I’m going for it.

Hey! Stop startling me! I’m teetering here…
Give me a break, will ya?

…gone, in the blink of an eye. I'll be baaaack....
Baffles. What a ridiculous notion.


A leaf flew by one of the hummingbird feeders and I froze in my tracks for a brief second. They’ve been reported north of us in eastern NC and VA. No sightings in Charlotte yet, but they’re getting close.


I plopped a large Hibiscus under their favorite feeder today. Hey, if they don’t come back, I’ll just have to go out and buy a few hummingbirds.


My shoulders are sagging, you know.

Springtime is full of unexpected surprises. Just beyond the hummingbird feeder, I saw the first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail of 2008 today.


The winds have been very gusty and strong which proved to be difficult for the butterfly to hold on and for me, too. Swaying branches test your focus but I managed somehow.



This swallowtail is for my friends who are still sloshing in snow, ice, and deep water - from Canada, Minnesota, Ohio, and all the way to Maine.

Spring is coming. Believe me.

I wish everyone a Joyous Easter!

Off to boil some eggs, now.