Monday, September 29, 2008

Buggy Bombardment

I fully expect to see the invasion of midges in the spring. It happens every year and while I don’t like them, I do expect them. Zillions of midges. All over the doors, windows and totally filling the numerous spider webs that pop up overnight and get caught in your face and hair when you venture outside.

I do not expect to get bombarded by bugs in the fall. Especially bugs that I don’t normally see here in vast numbers and don’t want to see here, thank you. Sneaking in when you open the door so that they can attach themselves to your curtains, sofa, and everything else they can find. They don’t bite, but can hurt you nonetheless when you twist your ankle jumping back off the chair that you climbed on to swat them when they decided they liked to hang upside-down on your ceiling.

I know the midges are one of the disadvantages of living close to the lake. Are these 2 inch long bugs also?

Are these the insect version of the Daddy Long Legs spider? Momma Long Legs perhaps? And if they are water bugs, what are they doing on and in my house? There hasn’t been any rain around here for days!!

So go away bug. Go back to the lake. I don’t want you here. Scat. Shoo. Be gone. Fly away home. Oh I know that last one’s for a different bug but I thought I’d try it anyway.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ducks, Dodos And Loony Birds

The same day my sister and I went on our little cheese run, we also decided to go on a duck hunt. I live about a quarter mile from the shores of Lake Erie, so after we got back from the cheese house with our bags of goodies, we went down to the lake to find some ducks.

We walked down the hill and out onto the pier. Not a duck in sight. Only then did it dawn on me that maybe the end of September is not the best time to be looking for the little quackers, (duh dodo) soooo, disappointed and not wanting to go home empty handed or in this case, empty cameraed, I took one picture of the lake.

And being that it was very windy and quite nippy that close to the water we decided to head back walking along the beach and there they were……Loony Birds.
Two of them. On the beach in plain sight. Not trying to hide at all. Not wanting to miss this, I quickly snapped a couple of pictures as they strutted around on the sand. Then one decided to lie down in the water almost submerged, and wait for the wind to lift him up. It did and off he went. And here he is out on the water riding the wind and the waves

To give you a better idea of how big this sail was I circled the loony as he was standing on the beach before he decided to take the plunge. (I didn't actually circle the loony as he was standing there, I put a circle around him in the photo.)

I have to admit that guy knew exactly what he was doing. When we thought he was so far out that he might be on his way to Canada, he laid down and twisted that sail so that it turned and blew him right back in again. But you can see in these pictures that there are no boats out there. No helicopter hovering nearby. No waiting rescue just in case. He was totally alone on the water. And he had to be cold. Maybe his shoes, long pants, and jacket were water repellent but he still had to be cold. The other guy stayed on the beach the whole time. No need for both of them to be lost at sea and one of them had to be able to call 911 with a dry cell phone if the need arose.

After watching for awhile, we finally left them to their fun and headed back up to the car. On the way we did run into a duck and a couple of seagulls and of course I took their picture.

So although we weren’t successful in our search of real ducks, we did find something a lot more entertaining and throughly enjoyed ourselves. At least I did because I had a jacket on but my sister didn’t. She had to be a little cold herself. Dodo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Say Cheese

I love cheese. All kinds of cheese except for the smelly limburger and the blue.
( I know why I don’t like the limburger but I’m not quite sure why I dislike the blue. Maybe I
had a bad experience at one time with blue cheese?)
So anyway, when my sister called and asked if I was interested in driving, actually I was only riding because she always drives, out to The Middlefield Cheese House, I immediately said “when?”.

Middlefield is in the heart of Amish country so of course I took along my camera. Had to be something interesting I could get a shot of. And there was….
Lots of these out there, all sizes, shapes and colors, but mostly red and some white. This one looks like it’s been used a bit, which is why I liked it. Reminds me of me.

I like barns. Always wanted to live in the country mainly so I could have a barn. Along with the mice, and the cats to take care of the mice, and the dog to keep the cats in line, and of course the hay loft. Climbing up the ladder to snooze on the bales of hay, looking out the loft door spying on…probably nothing since you’re out in the middle of nowhere, not thinking of all the work involved getting that hay up there by someone other than me, naturally.

I knew we would see the famous Amish horse and buggy, and we did see quite a few of them on the roads, but when we slowly drove by them all I got in the picture was a horses thigh, or butt. I thought if we could pass enough of them I would take different photos of different parts and would finally have enough to piece them together. Luckily we happened to see one pull into a library parking lot of all things, and managed to get these.

Now this one is a little different. Standing tall and stiff out in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea who built it or why, but it certainly is interesting.

I know, I know , what about the cheese. Well here it is. Some baby swiss, provolone, muenster, and one of my favorites, butter cheese aka havarti. My other sister turned me on to that one when she came up for a visit quite a few years ago. Thanks Nan. Along with the cheese, I of course had to have some pepperoni, and some mini pepperoni rolls. And I can never pass up cherry preserves. The little bag of cheddar sesame sticks was just because they taste so good.

So thanks Betty, had a great time, and sorry Nan but if you lived a little closer we would have picked you up and you could have had a great time too.

Now, where’s my little cheese slicer?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lacking Cents, Sense and Scents

There have been times when I’ve been lacking in the cash department, or a little lacking in the common sense my mother gave me (not the evening I met up with my little black and white friend though, whoo hoo), but today is neither of those times. Today, I’m lacking scents.

Those of you who take the time to visit me here, know that I enjoy going outside in the early morning to drink my coffee, to listen to the quiet sounds of nature and the far off sounds of the trains, and to be surrounded by the sights and scents of the numerous flowers that I plant every year just for that reason. Well, these mornings when I go outside although the birds are still chirping and calling to one another, and the trains are still blowing their whistles and chugging along on their way to wherever it is they’re going, the air is no longer filled with the smells of jasmine, stocks, freesia, tuberose, stargazer lilies, or autumn clematis. Not even the purple petunias, which I think have the faint aroma of wood smoke (and I like that smell), are still here.

I can still enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass, or even the smell of the damp soil when I water the plants (we need rain again), but those smells don’t hang around very long and that also entails work, which I’m not particularly fond of so early in the day, or even later in the day if you want to know the truth.

So now, while I still have some of the pleasures for the eyes, (the anemones, impatiens gazanias, geraniums, and zinnias are still blooming but not for much longer, I'm afraid), and for the ears, there is nothing for the nose. From the last weeks of September to the beginning weeks of April it is scentless here and when I go outside I think I miss enjoying that sense most of all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Little Snobbery On The Sedum?

A few weeks ago, when the sedum flowers were still pink instead of the very dark rose they are now, the little ladies in the neighborhood decided to all get together for an afternoon of friendly chit chat and a little snack.

They were all gathered on one side gossiping away and didn't notice that another visitor had decided to snack alone on the other side.

Once they saw her, they flew over to her numerous times to invite her to join them but each time, Ms. Hoity Toity stuck up her nose and in her best Greta Garbo imitation of "I vant to be alone", moved to another spot, totally ignoring them.

And although she constantly moved away from them when they tried to get friendly, she didn't leave, because Ms. Snooty Prissy Pants really enjoyed being the center of their attention as all snobs do of course.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

That Empty Feeling

One of the saddest sights in my garden is the empty plant pole. I know they’re really called Shepherd Hooks, but since I’ve never had any sheep and don’t see any in my near future, I prefer to call them hanging basket holder poles, aka birdfeeder holder upper poles, aka birdhouse holder poles or just simply poles which I will use here because it makes for a lot less typing.

Living in a condo with limited garden space, going up is the only option when you’re looking through seed catalogues and you just have to have one of these, one of those and oh, 2 of these, maybe some of this and some of that, and most certainly some of these gorgeous “new this year” ones.

So in order to cram as many flowers, and a few birdhouses and birdfeeders, into my space as possible I now have 12 of these poles in and around my gardens. No, that’s not a typo, I said 12. Some with single hooks, some double, tall, short, you name it, I got it.

All summer long these sturdy poles are working hard, sometimes being used as a living fence, lined up between my yard and my neighbors holding blue wave petunias.

Sometimes used as a way to hide the gas meters

And sometimes just to brighten up a dark corner

But now, in the middle of September, these poor poles no longer have a job. Except for the 2 by the back fence holding the birdhouses, the rest are laid off, standing bare and idle, looking forlorn and sad

Until next May, when once again they will be put to good use holding oriole and hummingbird feeders, and the new generation of must have plants, looking gorgeous and making me happy, until the wind blows real hard and I have to run out there and take everything down, and wonder why in the world I have so many of these darn things.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike-ette Comes A Calling

Last night the tattered remains of Ike decided to visit us up here in north east Ohio. While nowhere near as nasty as he was when he came ashore down south, he still packed 60 mph. wind gusts, enough to topple trees and cause widespread power outages.

As I ventured outside a few times, and listened to him howl and moan, watching the trees bend over, shedding a zillion leaves and hundreds of small twigs all over the place, I thought “how in the world could anyone go through a full force hurricane for hours and still want to live there”. (Florida brat?). I know if I lived in that area and saw a monster heading my way, I’d be outta there before they could finish that dreaded sentence “evacuations are advised for……”

Although I didn’t hunker down in the closet this time (which I have been known to do from time
to time), it was scary enough. And I kept a close eye on the huge trees surrounding my house hoping that they wouldn’t be falling on my roof or be coming through my windows, (as if watching them could hold them upright) and hoping that the power wouldn’t go out (it didn’t). We did have a storm quite a few years ago, with straight line winds of 70 mph, that took down half of the trees in the entire city, including one in my back yard, sent a huge limb through my front window, and left us without power for a week. Believe me I was in the closet that afternoon!!

So this morning at first light, after all the hullabaloo was over, I walked around the neighborhood to check things out. Aside from a few fairly large branches in the streets, (the city trucks were already out here cleaning up) and numerous small branches everywhere, everything else seemed pretty much okay.
The only casualty in my yard.

My poor little trellis got tired of standing up against the wind and decided to lie down. Unfortunatly his little legs are broken so he won’t be getting back up. Gives me an opportunity to try something new. Just not sure what.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dodging The Bullet

Last night just after dark, I decided to go outside for awhile, knowing that these nice warm evenings won’t be around much longer. So I opened the door and was halfway out before I saw him, not more than 2 feet away, directly in front of me, the light from the doorway shining on his up-turned face.

Looking down at him, I said in the calmest, softest voice I could manage considering the circumstances, “Well hello Mr. Skunk. How are you this evening?” He stood there, tail at half mast, looking up at me and at the foot that was poised in mid-air almost directly above his head (hey, statues have nothing on me when it’s a matter of remaining fragrance free). Then he slowly turned around (gulp, watch that tail, watch that tail) and being a perfect gentleman this time, he lowered that tail as he waddled off next door to see if he could find a nice little snack over there.

Watching those bright white racing stripes fade off into the darkness, I finally came all the way out and reminded myself that at this time of year, at this time of night, look outside BEFORE you just bounce out willy nilly.

And no, I did not get a picture. I must admit that there for a fleeting moment I did consider running to get the camera hoping that he would “hold that pose” and not be startled enough to spray my door, my house, and the entire neighborhood, but common sense prevailed this time and I remained still. So no picture. It think it was a wise choice, but I’m also thinking that one of these days, if I’m not careful, that camera is going to get me into a whole heap of trouble.

Friday, September 12, 2008

No Rodents?? How Can This Be??

I'm always amazed when someone says they don't have squirrels or chipmunks in their yard. How can you not have these pesky little rodents? If you even have just one plant in your yard, you should have something digging it up.

One of my sisters lives in West Virginia and has told me she doesn't have any squirrels or chipmunks running around. This is West Virginia, with all it's mountains and forests for petes' sake!! She has lots of trees and flower beds but has never seen one of these trouble makers in her yard. She does live right next to a large river and the other side is a huge wooded area, so maybe they all decided to stay on that side. But I know that even if I lived next to a roaring, raging, river with rapids, those little devils would have learned how to build a raft and I would have them in my yard in no time, digging up my garden.

And make no mistake about it, chipmunks are just as bad as their larger cousins. They might be a lot smaller but they have all the same bad habits. The only thing different about chipmunks is that they don't build their nests in trees. They much prefer your shed. They will flatten their bodies enough to squeeze through that 1/2 inch opening under the door, bring in their food stash and set up housekeeping next to your garden supplies. And when you open that door to get to your pruning shears, they delight in scaring the bejeezes out of you by scurrying right past your hand. You can hear them snickering in the corner when you let out a loud yelp.

And they build tunnels. While sweeping off my front stoop one day, one ran right past me and into my mass of four o'clocks. I decided to give chase, broom in hand, thinking I'd sweep him right out of my yard. Got that picture in your mind? The neighbor who happened to be walking down the sidewalk did. Anyhow, I searched all through the plants and couldn't find him anywhere. Then I noticed a small hole in the ground. I immediately stuck a nearby rock in the hole and thought "Okay, I got you now". But then I saw him emerge from another hole farther down and race away. I thought about continuing the chase but since the neighbor was now standing still, staring at me intently, I decided to give up the pursuit, gave her a small wave, (hopefully not with the hand holding the broom) and went back into the house.

So, for any of you out there who feel you are missing out on all this fun, and would like to have some of these sweet little critters in and around your yard, let me know. I'll be glad to FedX some by overnight express and you can be having a great time in no time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ahhh, The Mighty Oak

Some of the oak trees in and around my yard are very old and tower above all others, casting their shadows over the yard and driveway at various times of the day, keeping the house and car cool during the hot summer afternoons.

They also cast thousands of these
In the fall it's a constant symphony of sounds as they hit the lawn, rooftops, car and driveway. Plop, thud, ping, thunk.

Which in turn, attracts way too many of these
At times, I have seen up to 10 of these over-sized furry rodents scrambling around eating their fill and trying to bury the rest of this sudden abundance of food. Digging holes in the lawn, flower beds, containers, window boxes, anyplace they can dig a hole they will, to bury what they can for the coming winter months. And all winter long they crawl out of their nests that they built in these oak trees, out of oak leaves, and dig through the snow to get to the acorns that they had so painstakingly buried just a few months before.

But they never find them all so in the spring and all summer long these pop up, sometimes in the strangest of places
And if left un-pulled or un-mowed, they will eventually grow big enough to produce their own acorns, enough to attract all the squirrels in the city, the county, maybe even the whole state, to my backyard. Lucky me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lost In The Crowd

Some are very good at blending in, happily going about their business, feeling safe and secure in their ability to get lost in the crowd

Until some dodo with a camera comes along, accidently gets lucky, and blows their cover

Monday, September 8, 2008

Clackety Clack

The railroad tracks slice right through the middle of this city, so no matter where you live you are never more than 3-1/2 miles from them and therefore nobody "lives on the wrong side of the tracks". Or everybody "lives on the wrong side" depending on how you look at it. I look at it as the former. I love trains.

Sitting outside on a quiet morning you can hear the train whistle as it nears every crossing, warning cars that it's on it's way and since it's sooooo much bigger than you are, don't try to sneak around the gates to get to the other side, taking a risky chance that it won't catch you and squish you into scrap metal.

The whistle cadence is always the same. Whoooooooooo Whoooooooooo Whoo Whoooooooooo. Granted it sounds a lot better than it looks but you know what I mean. And when the breeze is blowing just the right way, you can also hear the clackety clack, clackety clack, as each wheel travels over each joint that connect the rails together. It sounds a lot better....etc. etc. etc. (At least my attempt at trying to convert words into sounds is better than some bird books I've read. Call is a low, harsh "cruck", a raspy "wreent", a dry, buzzy, staccato "ti-keer" ????)

The reason I love trains is because of my dad. He was a railroad man, waaaay back when, and passenger trains were in abundance, unlike now. Not the "glamorous" job of engineer, not the conductor who came down the aisle and punched your ticket (do they still do that?), but the behind the scenes electrician who helped keep them running. And best of all, he, and we, got to ride for free. A good thing because railroads were not known for their generous pay practices and I'm sure we never could have afforded to take the train as much as we did. At least once a year, sometimes more, we would go the Terminal Tower to catch a train to visit our relatives in Indiana.

I haven't been to that building for years and years, and have no idea what it's like now, but back then, to a childs' mind at least, it was amazing!! All shiny, clean, vast open spaces, with wide marble steps leading down to the boarding platforms. And then the train!!! The HUGE train with engines roaring and steam belching, coming through the tunnel, very scary and exciting at the same time, and causing a little girl to put a death grip on the hand that was holding hers.

Once safely inside, getting underway and sitting in a window seat, I was hypnotized by the scenery speeding by (probably lasted for a whopping 5 minutes before my attention turned to other things). I remember somebody walking down the aisle with a tray of sandwiches wrapped in wax paper for anyone who was hungry, and of course all of us kids were suddenly starving and had to have one. I remember the little restrooms which we also all had to use, and when you pushed the flush handle the bottom opened up and you could see the ground and railroad ties rushing past. I know I pushed that handle quite a few more times than was necessary because that was just fascinating to me, until we were finally taken back to our seats. I'm pretty sure that's one of the things that has been changed over the years.

The rest of the trip was spent jockeying around so someone else could sit by the window, being scolded for arguing, running back and forth to that restroom, and whatever else a bunch of young kids could get into. And then we were there and after a few days of visiting over here, over there, over here again, (ALL our relatives lived there) we got to do it all over again.

Over the years many memories fade and feelings change but my love of trains has stayed the same. Even now if I can get really close to one, I still get that sense of awe and excitement as I did when I was a child. I hope that never changes.

This, of course, is my favorite wind chime

Saturday, September 6, 2008

This Story Is Full Of Holes

Large, medium, small or tiny, holes are all over the place. Everywhere you look, you'll find some kind of hole. My neighbors strawberry pot.

It's full of holes. Big holes. Mostly empty holes except for the hen & chicks that are stuck in a few. (Not bragging at all but I think I might have done a little better job if it was my pot of holes)

Then there's this medium sized hole.

I was very careful when I drilled this hole into the side of this fragile gourd. I sure could have used a hole the size of the strawberry pot when trying to remove the insides without cracking the walls, but I finally got them all out and then I carefully sanded the edges smooth so the birds wouldn't scratch themselves as they went in and out. Three years now and no birds have ever scratched themselves on this hole. Because three years now and no birds have ever gone in or out. Maybe it's the wrong sized hole.

Some holes are small.

I have no idea why this hole is in the side of my house where holes should never be, so I immediately stuffed a wooden dowel in it right after I took this picture. Keep the little critters out until I can fill it with something a little more permanent, maybe a larger wooden dowel. I'm glad it's just a small hole.

Some holes are used for very important things like food storage.

The red headed woodpecker uses this telephone pole as his food pantry. He especially likes to store peanuts and bagels in these tiny holes. (Yes, bagels, but that's a different post for a later time.)

Some holes are used for buried treasure such as acorns, only to be dug up and then re-buried somewhere else, dug up, re-buried, dug up, many times that your nice little patch of green that you tend to so faithfully begins to resemble a field of miniature craters

Pesky squirrels. They fill in the holes when they bury their stash, the least they could do is fill it back in when they dig it up.

Then there are the little holes that gradually grow into big holes. I hate when little gnats or whatever they are, bite my ankles, so I always wear socks when I go outside. Trouble is, I don't always wear shoes. So eventually most of my socks look like this.

But I still wear them. Hey the rest of the sock is fine so why throw the whole sock away when it's just a small part that's bad. Besides I have to save my un-holey socks for when company comes. ("Hey, Hi, How are you, Come on in, Hold on just a sec.", dash upstairs and change my socks. Never mind the opened mail strewn across the table, the few dirty cups in the sink, a bit of dust on the furniture. Priorities, you know) Anyhow, I'm just going to wear them in my own yard. The little problem occurs when I'm outside and my neighbors call me over.

Walking up to them is not the problem. The toes of my socks look perfectly fine. The problem is when it's time to leave. You don't want them to see your heels so you have to back away. I find that if you slowly walk backwards, talking all the while so they think you are just continuing the conversation, and then when you get close to your own door, just kinda slide sideways until you get inside, they'll never know. They might think you're a little weird, but they'll never accuse you of wearing holey socks.

And lastly, my favorite holes. The only reason they're my favorite holes is because they happen to be in my favorite shirt.

My big, soft, cozy, comfortable shirt. The shirt I wear around the house when it starts to get a little cool, the long sleeves warm and fuzzy against my arms, except for the left elbow where there is another large hole. The shirt I wear when I curl up in my favorite chair to read a good book. The shirt that took me years to get to the perfect feel. No way I'm getting rid of these holes.

Wow, this post is longer than I thought it was going to be. Hope nobody got so bored that they fell asleep halfway through. Unless they're reading it at night of course. Then I'll just say "you're welcome"

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Little Bit of Nothing

"Red sky at night, sailors delight,
Red sky in the morning, sailors warning"
I don't know where this quote comes from, but my mom used to say it.

Fortunately for the sailors this was a night sky.

They might have been doing a happy dance when they saw this, but it still looks very eerie to me.

I don't know what the sailors have to say about these, but I like them.

None of these were taken lately because we haven't had any rain for quite a while. Just a few sprinkles during the last 4 weeks. I can smell the dust hanging in the air and on the bushes, and see the coating on the roofs and cars. The weather forcast is saying a 50% chance of rain today and tonight. I hope so. We need a good drenching!!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Busy As A Bee

Bumble Bee that is. They are all over the place. Unlike the honey bee that had been declining the last few years, but is now making a slow recovery, bumbles are multiplying like there's no tomorrow. At least in my yard.
On the late blooming Japanese Anemone
Backing out of an Asarina bloom with yellow pollen clinging to his legs
On the only Cosmo that I have (these did not do well this year)
A blurry bee coming in for a landing on the Autumn Clematis
And last but not least, on the sedum.
They love this plant, which is why I have moved it to the back of the yard. Waaay back. When the nights start to be a little chilly, I come out here in the early morning before it warms up and this bush is totally loaded with them. I guess they decided to make it their bed when spending the night.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"A Rose By Any Other Name".. Must Be A Sharon

Rose of Sharons make a great screen, which is why I planted them alongside the neighbors garage. They grew to about 8 feet and covered a multitude of sins. Although the bushes themselves didn't look terrific this year, the individual flowers did, so that is what you will be seeing.
This is of course the single

Next we have the double

And this one hasn't quite made up its mind yet