Sunday, May 27, 2007

Heron in a Pine Tree

This heron is sitting in a pine tree about twenty-five feet up from the ground overlooking the pond.

This post is an experiment in storing my pictures in Blogger instead of Picturetrail so I can provide better definition for less money.

Double click on the picture if you want to see it bigger and better.

If this doen't work for you or weird things happen, please leave a comment. Be sure and mention what operating system you're using.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday's Feast for May 25

It's Friday, so let's have a Feast.

Appetizer - Name a sound you like to hear.

This time of year the loudest, longest sound I like to hear is the frog croaking in the pond. It goes on all night. I tried to get a frog picture, but evidently they're sleeping the day away after a night of partying.

Male Eastern Phoebe on old fence postAnother seasonal sound I like to hear is the call of the Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) that nest on the underside of the back balcony.

This is the male.

The Phoebe is a small (about 7 inches) member of the Flycatcher family. They sit on a perch, wag their tails up and down, and then fly out to catch an insect in the air to feed themselves or their young.

Female Eastern Phoebe in bushMom Phoebe is doing her share of bringing home the bugs.

Soup - What is your favorite kind of cheese?

Swiss cheese is my favorite kind of cheese for cooking. I love the way it strings and tastes with eggs.

Sharp cheddar cheese is my favorite kind of cheese for macaroni and cheese.

Parmesan is another favorite. It's impossible to have too much of it on a plate of spaghetti.

Salad - Do you sleep late on Saturday mornings? Why or why not?


Now that I'm retired, I don't need to catch up on my sleep over the weekend.

Also, I get up for early church on Sunday morning, which is difficult to do if I sleep in on Saturday and go to bed late on Saturday night.

Main Course - When was the last time you forgot something? What was it, and how long did it take to remember it?

Just last night I went to doggy school and left my cell phone home on the charger. About three miles into the eight mile drive, I remembered and had to remind myself that I drove for decades without a cell phone and managed to live through it just fine.

Still, I like to have my cell phone with me. It's comforting to know that if I have a problem, Bob is just a call away. Especially when I have two little dogs in the car.

Dessert - Fill in the blank: I notice ____________ when _____________.

Azalea flowersI notice the beauty of where I live when out with my camera. Much of it is natural, but some of it was intentionally planted, like this azalea.

I don't remember its name. Its a human created hybrid. As beautiful as it is, the hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, and butterflies don't go to it like they do to the native azalea planted a short distance away.

That makes it less beautiful in my eyes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mourning Dove Nest

Mourning Dove on wireMourning Doves, (Zenaida macroura) are plentiful in all the continental 48 states.

They're named for their sad call, coah, coooo, coooo, coooo.

We have a small population on our property. They're pretty in their own unflashy way and I enjoy their singing.

Pine tree containing dove nestThis tree is toward the rear of our property. The dog walking path goes around the back of it.

Yesterday while walking the dogs with my camera, I looked into the branches just above eye level and spotted this . . .

Dove sitting on nestThe mourning dove nest is a small platform of twigs. How they ever keep the eggs in it, is beyond me.

How can they possibly keep wiggly hatchlings from falling out or through?

They must be able to do it. There are so many Mourning Doves around that last fall hunters tried to make them legal game birds. Fortunately they failed.

Monday, May 21, 2007

8 Things Meme

I've been tagged by Kathy and Shirley for this meme.

I'm even going to try and think of eight things to say that I haven't blogged about before.

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names.

  1. I drink a cup of coffee when I first wake up in the morning and a second cup at lunch. Any coffee later than lunch and I can't get to sleep at night.

  2. I've booked a flight to Idaho on June 26 to visit my two year old granddaughter Sydney Anne.

    Sydney sitting in her booster chair
    I miss her so much it hurts to think about it.

  3. I fondly remember my days as a computer analyst in corporate America, but wouldn't want to repeat them. Retirement is wonderful.

  4. I take Boniva for osteoporosis and it's working to increase my bone density. I consider that a miracle.

  5. Just this week I was tempted to drive to Nashville and get another rescue Papillon. Fortunately, DH an I have an agreement that three dogs is all we can handle. As long as one of us stays sane when the other is tempted, we'll be OK.

    Ace the PapillonIf you're interested in a one year old Papillon rescue, check out Ace.

  6. One of my patterns, Shetland Lace Rib Socks, is featured on a Japanese web site here. Since the website is mostly in Japanese I can't figure out why or what kind of website it is.

  7. I like an occasional peanut butter and bacon sandwich.

  8. I am predominately left brain, sometimes too much so.

    Brain Lateralization Test Results
    Right Brain (12%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.
    Left Brain (76%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
    Are You Right or Left Brained?
    personality tests by

I tag anyone who wants to do it who hasn't done it yet - or wants to do it a second time if they have done it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Saturday Sky and Tiger Swallowtail

Cloudy sky on May 19The day started out like this, cloudy and chilly.

See that little spot of blue sky in the middle of the picture? Before the day way over, the entire sky was blue. I was able to work outside long enough to get good and tired.

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Azalea
This beautiful Tiger Swallowtail is enjoying the Azalea bush.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Real Hummers and Faux Hummer

Female Ruby-throated hummingbirds at feederThe Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the only hummingbird species in SW Michigan. Here at Violet Acres, we have many nesting pairs each summer.

The females just arrived this past week, the males the week before. The males have red throats, the females white throats.

If you think this little three inch bird is timid, you're wrong. They entertain us with their aerial acrobatics while conducting hummingbird wars around the feeder.

Female Ruby-throated hummingbird on wireBefore moving to this house, I never saw a hummingbird sitting still. They sit on the wires just like a big bird.

This female is guarding the feeder from her perch on the wire. When another hummingbird comes to drink, she will swoop down and the chase is on.

Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth showing proboscisRemember the picture of the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis) I published here? It was a good picture but it didn't show the wings. I've managed to do better this time.

In this picture you can see it holding the blossom open with its front feet and the proboscis drinking the nectar. A proboscis is a siphoning mouthpart similar to a straw.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

12th Annual Louise Lunch

Louise lunch started when Kimmy was named Kimberly Louise, the fourth generation of women with the middle name Louise.

On a Saturday in May the four of us meet for lunch to celebrate Mother's Day, Heather's May 13 birthday, and our love for each other.

As Kimmy once told a friend, "If your middle name isn't Louise, you can't come."

This year, as many others, we ate at Clara's in Battle Creek.

Heather, Mom, and KimmyLeft to right: Daughter - Heather Louise, Mom - Marguerite Louise, and Granddaughter Kimmy - Kimberly Louise.

Kimmy, Mom, and me looking sillyBy the time I handed over the camera to Heather and showed her which button to press, no one was being serious.

Left to right: Granddaughter Kimmy - Kimberly Louise, Mom - Marguerite Louise, and me - Marguerite Louise.

Mom with her Mother's Day gift bookWe all received a gift to suit our interests.

Here's Mom giving thumbs up to her new Donald Westlake book.

Me with my Mother's Day gift bagI'm appreciating all the compartments and pockets in a new knitting bag.

Heather with her birthday socksHeather is holding her handknit birthday socks. (Sock details here.)

Kimmy with her Louise Day braceletKimmy is grinning over her new bracelet.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Pappy's Haircut and Four Leaf Clover Bonanza

Pappy with full and overflowing coatPappy has a "full" coat, which is a polite way of saying he has dog hair up the wazoo.

During winter, we let it grow. By the end of winter he looked like this.

Pappy with spring haircutWednesday he got his first summer haircut.

Yes, we know Papillons aren't supposed to get cut so short. But Pappy's a country dog who likes to chase rodents through the sticker seeds and ticks. It will grow.

We have a talented new groomer, so hopefully he'll never look like that top picture again, even when his hair is winter length.

I was looking forward to taking him to doggy school last night so he could show off his new do to all his doggy friends. Instead, doggy school was cancelled due to a breakout of kennel cough.

Some ignorant dog owner brought her Great Dane to class Monday night with a cough. Kennel cough always spreads rapidly, but imagine the germs a Great Dane can cough into the air.

Tuesday night Pappy and Sunny both attended and trainer Gail's demo dog was home coughing. Since he was vaccinated for kennel cough (kennel cough is a generic term for any viral or bacterial infection that causes a dog to cough), that likely means this strain of kennel cough is not covered in the vaccine he received.

Thursday afternoon Gail called to cancel class and reported more Monday night dogs are coughing. She's disinfecting the doggy school and hopefully things will be back to normal next week.

I'm also hoping she puts up a big sign on the door saying, "If your dog is coughing, take it home NOW!" Some people need to be told.

My dogs are vaccinated for kennel cough. I'm hoping our vaccines work better than Gail's.

Four and five leaf cloverIt was almost three years ago that I spotted two four leaf clovers staring up at me. The most excellent good luck followed shortly after.

The first clover resulted in a visit from Son John and DIL Anne from Idaho. The second clover resulted in the exciting news that they were going to have a baby the following spring.

Yesterday while walking the dogs I looked down and spotted these two good luck symbols. The one on the right has five leaves. Without knowing the meaning of five leaves, I'm going to assume that is super good luck. Although I can't imagine anything better than Granddaughter Sydney.

Four leaf cloverOn the next dog walk, I looked down in an entire different place to find another four leaf clover of a different, larger species.

Now I'm really getting excited! What do you think this means?

At the very least I'm expecting my dogs to stay kennel cough free.

Postscripts for anyone who is wondering:

I'm skipping Friday's Feast this week because I have other things to blog about for the next several posts and this week's questions didn't inspire me.

I'm not superstitious and the clover post was written in fun with a big smile. Good things that could be considered "luck" happen to me all the time, four leaf clover or not.

Still, that certainly was strange to find so many on the same day after all this time of not seeing any . . . .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Two Birds and A Moth

Oriole at orangeLast weekend the orioles arrived from South America.

This male Northern Oriole (Icterus galbula) does look a bit tired from his long trip.

Oriole eating orange

When they first arrive, they can be tempted by oranges to come near the house. And, of course, we do just that.

It's such a thrill to see them and know they're going to nest somewhere nearby.

Once they start nesting, they stay in the tall treetops and are rarely seen again until next spring.

Blue heron hunting in the pondThe Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) doesn't nest on our property, but they do pop in occasionally to catch some dinner.

This one is fishing in our pond, his long legs underwater so you can't tell how tall he really is - about four feet. They also like to wade down the creek where I usually don't see them until they fly up and startle me.

The hunting is good here, and I'm sure we'd have more Great Blue Heron visitors if Glory (dog) didn't delight in chasing them.

Hummingbird moth on blue woodland phloxA few days ago while I was doing something else, I heard a DH call from the porch to "Bring the camera!"

By the time I got there and got focused, there was only time for one picture before this hummingbird moth flew away. Fortunately, it's not a bad picture, except you can't see its quickly fluttering wings.

There are several species of Hummingbird moths who earn their common name by looking very much like hummingbirds as they dart from bloom to bloom in the daytime. This is a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis) thoroughly enjoying the sweetness of my woodland phlox.

There are gorgeous pictures of the entire Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth life cycle here, including a good view of the wings that don't show in my photo.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Sky, Swallow, and Special Patch

Cloudy Saturday sky for May 5The sky looks like it's going to rain, we need rain, so why doesn't it rain?

The picture was taken at eight this morning. Now it's after lunch, the sky looks about the same but it hasn't rained a drop.

According to the National Weather Service, there is only a 30% chance of rain today. Seems a strange forecast with a sky full of rain clouds, but they stubbornly refuse to produce.

Tree Swallow on wireThere is a power line crossing the back three acres. You can see it in the sky picture above.

Some of the birds love to use the wire as a launch site for their insect collecting and to sit and monitor the activity around their nesting sites.

After fledge day, the Tree Swallows and Bluebirds line their young up on the wire for lessons in how to live outside the nest.

The handsome fellow in the picture is a Tree Swallow.

Apple blossomsOur apple trees are in bloom this week.

The earth under the trees isn't suitable for growing grass, just violets and other assorted little weeds wildflowers.

We don't mess with the ecology of that area because in the spring it's a . . .

Morel mushroom. . . bed of Morel mushrooms.

In this part of the country people go crazy in the spring hunt for the elusive Morel mushroom.

Morel patches are jealously guarded and kept secret year after year. There are websites with Morel lore, Morel recipes, Morel pictures, Morel spotting updates (not with exact locations) and Morel jokes.

We were handed our Morel patch along with our mortgage. After a late April - early May rain the Morels magically appear underneath three very old apple trees on the north side of the house.

We have never been part of the Morel mania but we acknowledge our patch as something special. We celebrate that specialness by eating them.

So far this year the mushroom crop has been super sparse. It may not be too late, though. Please let the rains begin.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday's Feast for May 4
It's Friday, so let's have a Feast.

Appetizer - Name something you would not want to own.

A knitting machine.

About twenty years ago I bought a nice one and took lessons, so I have experience to back up my thoughts.

The machine knitting process is nothing like hand knitting. It's more like running a machine - because that's what it is.

It ended up stored under the bed for a year. Then I hauled it out and sold it to a woman who was thrilled to take it off my hands.

Soup - Describe your hair (texture, color, length, etc.).

MeFine textured but thick. About 80% white, 20% warm brown. Short and blunt cut. Slightly wavy when I don't blow it dry.

I get it cut every six weeks. The picture is the week before a haircut, so that's almost as long as it gets.

Salad - Finish this sentence: I’ll never forget ___________.

Baby Heather Louise, 1968The day I met my daughter, Heather Louise.

After a nine month wait, her dad and I were invited to come to the adoption agency and check out a baby girl.

She was a delightful two month old baby with red hair, dressed in pink from head to toe. We loved her at first sight.

Three days later she was legally ours and we took her home.

Main Course
Which famous person would you like to be for one day? Why?

Forget the fame. I want to be someone who knows Japanese and English.

I would spend the day translating the Japanese Heirloom Knitting book and writing notes so I could do more translations after turning back into myself.

Write one sentence about yourself that includes one thing that is true and another thing that is not.

I bought a new John Deere tractor this week and now my lawn will be perfect.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Some Good Sparrows

First, a reminder that there are bad sparrows. English Sparrows/House Sparrows are little terrorists, killing cavity nesting birds like Bluebirds by pecking off their heads.

I've had it happen in one of my nest boxes. But don't take my word for it. Read about it here.

Now, on to a couple of the good sparrows that nest in Violet Acres, SW Michigan.

White-throated sparrow eating a seed from the sideThe little White-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) scratch around in the spilled seed on the ground under the feeders.

At a length of almost seven inches, they are one of the largest in the sparrow family.

White throated sparrow straigh onThis head-on picture shows the big feet, almost like chicken feet, that they use to scratch like chickens - back and forth, back and forth.

It also shows the pretty white throat.

Chipping Sparrow eating a seedThe smaller, more delicate, Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), is five inches long. They also like to eat on the ground under the feeder, but they supplement their seed diet with insects caught in the air.

Chipping Sparrows are named after their noise, Chip - - - Chip - - - Chip. I can't bring myself to call it a song because it isn't. But I enjoy them anyway.