Thursday, August 27, 2015

Rebuilding Heron Pond

For the last several days I have been trying to get our little pond--Heron Pond--up and running. So far, this has been about a three-day project. 

The first order of business was to place the concrete shell, which I assume was the top of a bird bath at one time. I had to drag it from the backyard where it was sitting on a stump. Who says a bird bath needs a pedestal? 

I bought it at a garage sale. Hubby was furious with me because let's face it, the darn thing is pretty heavy. 

Thanks to the lawn tractor and garden cart, I finally got the thing placed close to where I wanted it. The pump had stopped working and the water was getting pretty nasty. It definitely needed to be drained and cleaned. 

The pond is small; it didn't take long. When I took out the pump to clean it, it started working like a champ. It was working great before I went in to fix dinner. By the time dinner was over, all the water was gone. Even now, I'm not sure where it went because nothing seemed overly wet around it. I was hoping it wasn't a hole in the pond liner. The general consensus was a hole in the rubber tubing.

I put the pump back in, but it stubbornly refused to work. At least the tubing checked out; no holes. 

The pump ran only intermittently. Geez! Hubby and I decided it was just worn out, so I went to the store to replace it with a slightly larger one. 

I'm guessing the water leaked out because my waterfall wasn't placed correctly. It must have dribbled out of the shell at the sides and into the rocks below. 

A little adjusting and all is well. In fact the shell now completely fills with water before spilling. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. Now, to do a little general sprucing up and some landscaping, and Heron Pond will be just what I envisioned when I first bought that birdbath top several years ago.

I'm sure the frog population will be pleased. I expect to hear them croaking with joy real soon.


Pay no attention to the background noise. That is just the television since the windows were all open. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Winning the wildlife war; nature returns

I finally had a squirrel-free moment, not something that happens around here very often.

There is no body count, but my trusty pellet gun does scare them away for long periods of time.

These front yard bird feeders get most of the action, by both birds and the beast squirrels.

I awoke yesterday morning to find the red (squirrel-proof) feeder, you know, the one with the springs attached so the door closes to the food when a squirrel steps on it. Well, not my squirrels. They drop the thing to the ground and work it until they break the door and the perch right off. The entire mechanism was completely broken; its screws who knows where. I hope they ate those too and get a belly ache from them.

I had to figure out a way to fix the thing, using what I had available. I found a screw and nut that was way too big for the hole, so I just made the hole bigger. The squirrels knocked the baffle to the ground in their quest for one more sunflower seed. The vertical feeder is their actual destination and they will destroy anything to get to it.

I was shocked to wake up this morning to find the feeders still in-tact and the baffle still in place. Often times, the raccoons will come in the night and are even more destructive than the squirrels. I always know when they were here because the feeders are lying empty, somewhere in the woods.

Ah, the beauty of living in the country. Still, I wouldn't change it for anything.

For a time I moved that vertical feeder to the front porch. I hung it from the eaves. The squirrels did their best but had a hard time reaching it. I got tired though of sweeping birdseed from the porch every day. The squirrels were content to eat the seed that fell on the ground, but because they were attracted to the front porch they found other things to eat, like all the flowers I had in pots--all gone, except for one--a pink begonia. Either they don't like begonias or they just didn't get to it yet. All the breakable pots are broken too, by the way.

All is not lost however. I saw my very first Monarch hanging around the Butterfly Bush. I've heard gardening experts say to get rid of these bushes because they are non-native and invasive. I say heck no--this bush is right in front of the porch and it thrives every year. It attracts butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds.

Speaking of hummers, I was distressed at not having very many of them this year. That is so odd, since we always have them buzzing all around the front porch. It occurred to me though, that they don't like being in the same flyway as the bigger birds who were eating at the feeder on the porch. Once I moved the feeder back to the front yard, the hummers started to return. I now have a healthy supply of them busily feeding at each feeder, flying away, and then returning.

When the squirrels and raccoons are eating the flowers, the deer usually make gluttons of themselves as well. I started spraying a natural deer repellent spray on my plants, so hopefully I can turn my black thumb back to green.

It was a pleasant surprise to see something blooming for a change. It has been months since a flower dared to show its pretty head around here.

The venerable Crepe Myrtle shown here is always pretty. I love these bushes. I am always so amazed at how they don't seem to care how hot it gets. They just keep on blooming.
What a wonderful plant!

One day, a grouping of these Bare Naked Ladies (lilies) appeared. I'm not sure if I planted them or they just appeared. Wouldn't it be funny if the squirrels left me a present?
Hah, doubt that; I probably just planted them and forgot about it.
Either way, I adore lilies, so I can't wait to see if they come up again next year.

This Passion Flower vine finally made itself known. I was starting to wonder. I inspected the area, where I first planted it three years ago, regularly only to find one or two shoots coming up. This year, the vine exploded and bloomed. I think it is about the third year for this beauty.
They say it is invasive, but that's fine by me.
Bring it on; I have lots of room for pretty, delicate, purple flowers.

I've been trying to grow Cone Flowers ever since I first saw them filling a field. The color is my favorite and I am always delighted to see them. Every year I fight with the deer who just love to eat them. I haven't seen many deer this year, either because of the spray I put around my flower beds or the more than likely the war I'm having with the squirrels. Either way, I'm so glad these were able to stand up to show how pretty they are.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Well it didn't work for long

Arkansas squirrels can just go to hell!

lazy squirrelThat make-shift bird feeder mentioned in my last post didn't last long. Not only did the feeder fall to the ground once again, but so did the suet feeder and the hummingbird feeder. Big, fat, gluttony squirrels aren't very dainty when they go after what they want.

I have taken down the hummingbird feeder because I'm tired of picking up glass shards from the ground. It saddens me to see one or two hummers peering in the window as if to ask where it went. I try to tell them to go round to the front, but I imagine they know that anyway. Hummingbirds have to be smarter than squirrels.

At least the suet feeder doesn't break when the piggy squirrels ravage it. I just continue the habit of retrieving it and filling it up again. I'm not sacrificing the woodpeckers. This is the only feeder I have left for them. The beasts have destroyed all the others.

The front yard feeders aren't fairing much better. I've gone through an entire tin of pellets, shooting at the little varmints. I really don't want to kill them; I just want to deter them. Apparently dead is all they understand. I'm just not the killer type. That may change in the future!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Not perfect, but in a pinch...

One of the things that I love about living in the Ozarks is the tendency for folks make do with what they have. It isn't uncommon for some to assume that when something is broken, you pitch it and buy a new one, whatever the case may be. 

I subscribe to a different adage. If it's broke; fix it. I believe in and really admire those who use their head rather than just your wallet. Efficiency might as well be my middle name. And nothing gets me more fired up than solving a problem.

For the last several weeks, I have been ticked off at the aggressive bullying squirrels around here this year. They have cost me a fortune by eating more than their weight in bird seed, and in doing so decimated several bird feeders, eaten my plants, and broken pottery. They have generally been a big fat nuisance. I was so angry that I was inspire to write about my ongoing battle with the furry varmints in a previous blog post with the hope that others can relate. Misery does love company, you know!

So, this is my solution! And it works!

So far so good anyway! It occurred to me that despite this once pretty feeder being a little cockeyed from too many trips to the ground, it is basically still useful in that can still hang from a hook. It just no longer holds seed, a pretty serious flaw for a bird feeder.

I reasoned that just because the glass insert was smashed to smithereens, didn't mean I couldn't fix the thing. I scoured closets and china cabinets for a glass vase to put inside, upside down, to hold the seed. There were obvious problems with that solution, but the least of which was that each vase I had was either too wide to fit or too short to clear the metal rod that holds it altogether.

First thing this morning, I arrived at my solution. I finally cut the top and bottom off a quart container of half-and-half, just emptied with our morning coffee. I covered it with aluminum foil, cutting out little tabs at the bottom to allow the seed to flow into the holding tray. I filled it with seed and got my first feathered visitor shortly thereafter.

Oh, the squirrels were trying to get to it, but I used a pellet gun to scare the bejesus out of them. I'm not a very good shot, but the noise was enough to do the trick. They haven't been back. I'm sure they will be though, and I'm all loaded up with pellets in case they do.

Life is good here in the Ozarks once more!

Friday, June 12, 2015

OK squirrels, this is war!

Who knew that this quiet, unassuming, peaceful place I call home--the place that brings solitude, comfort, and harmony to my soul--would be the scene of an all-out battle?

I hate the idea of having to consider violence, and that is definitely a last resort, but I am about at my wit's end.

backyard sans bird feeder
There used to be a bird feeder hanging from that cord.

This morning, while I was reveling in my breakfast of farm fresh eggs with a side of fresh-picked raspberries and blueberries, I heard a familiar crash. It was one I've heard before; I've heard it way too many times before.

I knew the growing number of resident squirrels have again knocked down the bird feeder. I went out, hopeful that it wasn't time for another trip to Walmart to pick up another one--again!

broken bird feeder picJust a few minutes before, I chased a squirrel away. He was inside the feeder, eating his fill of sunflower seeds not meant for him.

The dangling cord had been attached to the bottom of the feeder. One of the pesky critters  either broke it or bit it in half. Either way, the result, as evidenced by the picture, the fall broke the feeder. It will still hold seed if I can figure out a new way to attach the bottom to its top, still dangling from the eaves just outside our enclosed back porch.

I love sitting on the couch in that porch, watching the birds. There are always plenty of goldfinches, chickadees, titmouse, house finches, cardinals, and even a blue jay or two. There is a suet feeder also, which attracts some nuthatches and lots of woodpeckers. I watched lots of baby birds this spring travel from the branch to the feeder (as described here) and fill the entire backyard with song. It is a delight that I am not willing to part with, no matter what I have to do.

squirrel feederFor the decade we have lived in this house, we have had bird feeders outside this window. Never before have squirrels been as intrusive and as numerous as they have this year.

I thought I had the problem solved when I bought this new plastic feeder. It hangs just below a squirrel baffle, designed to protect it from squirrels--I am laughing at that idea!

I was just sick when they destroyed my last feeder. It was really pretty.

squirrel invaderShown left, this cockeyed, twisted thing is all that is left of what had been a beautiful feeder. It was costly by my standards too. The ornate metal encompassed a glass cylinder which held the seed. It offered ample protection until the damned furry rodents rode it like a merry-go-round, spinning it around so fast that it completely unscrewed itself from the top piece that holds it altogether causing the fall. I had hoped the beasts rode it all the way down and got a jolt when it hit the ground. Shards of glass were everywhere, but I detected no blood. The feeder was the only casualty.

They used to come at it from the big oak tree, some seven feet away. They leaped; no flew at the feeder. More often than not, they missed and fell to the ground. Because of the slope of the property, this is like a second story window. They never seemed to hurt themselves though, so they kept it up until they found a better way. Their agility is matched only by their perseverance.

I do enjoy watching how they do it, until they become bullies about it. I despise bullying. They would make their way up the tree, onto the roof, and then jump to the teeny-tiny ledge just outside the window. Then it was just a small leap up to the feeder. They'd grab onto the metal sides and eat themselves silly.

Finally, I decided to string beer cans along the sill, so when they jumped onto them, they rolled off. That worked for a while. I actually thought I had them. Then they figured out that if they flattened the cans, they wouldn't roll anymore. In essence, they had their ledge back, and it was that much closer to their destination. It was just after that escapade that the bird feeder finally crashed to the ground.

I dutifully went out with my dust pan and whisk broom to clean up their mess.

I also have a hummingbird feeder hanging to the right of this setup. I can't count how many times I have picked that up off the ground when the monsters knocked it off its hook on their way to the bird seed. So far, I have been able to find all the little ribber flowers that protect the holes from bees and ants. There is always one or two missing that I have to search for.

I used to have a nice little setup in the front yard for feeding the birds until the monsters destroyed it.

Birds never got a chance to eat at the feeder on the left. The squirrel bullies didn't let them. The feeder on the right--the red one--is supposed to be squirrel proof. No such thing. That is broken now too, although that may have been the nighttime marauders responsible for that. Perhaps I can still fix it. It remains empty.

little squirrel feastsI've moved what is now the main feeder, the one on the left, to the front porch. It hangs from an overhang, so it is difficult for the beasts to reach it and it is too high for them to jump onto from the porch. I can't say they haven't tried. In doing so, they have broken numerous pretty flower pots I've collected. In the process, they have also eaten the tops off geraniums and petunias, and generally made a mess of my flowers.

Look at the arrogance and determination on that squirrel face. I think he is mad at missing out on his free meals. TOO BAD!

If I didn't hate him so much, I would admit how cute he really is. For now, I refuse to do that. After all, this is war!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The good life!

This has been a spectacular Spring. Not only do I have high hopes for the vegetable garden, sprinkled with a couple inches of Mother Nature's unique liquid nourishment, but I have had some fun in other gardens as well.

All the rain has left the ground feeling like actual dirt, rather than hard concrete. My measly strength was enough to coerce the weeds out of their comfort zone. Love wet weather for that reason.

Earlier this week, the weather was cloudy and cool, perfect for working outside. I spent the morning tidying up the garden immediately in front of the house.

A couple years ago I thought it might be nice to add some Vinca to the flowers there. Hah, bad idea; the Vinca had taken over. That stuff sure grows well around here. If I hadn't pruned it last fall, I'm sure it would have walked in the front door and confiscated my favorite easy chair by now. So, as much as I hate doing away with anything that grows, I decided the Vinca just had to go. The best way to be rid of it, short of poison, which I abhor, is to just pull it out. It took hours, but that is just what I did.

front garden

Reclaiming this tiny little space and planting a few flowers in it, was the result of a hard day's work. I just love using our many, many, many rocks to actually serve a purpose--lining flower beds. 

There was also another part to this project. Just to the right of the garden is a tiny water feature. There were a couple giant plants that had to be transplanted because the pond was completely obscured from the porch. I cleaned out the area also and planted a few flowers. 


This little water feature has a waterfall and makes the most lovely music which provides the perfect ambient sound for pondering on the porch. That Nandina in front of the pond is one of two that I transplanted. Thanks to the rain we've been getting, the plants didn't suffer from transplant shock at all. It had previously been right where that 'duck crossing' sign is posted.

Our pond is home to a new resident frog, a happy, noisy little guy.

resident frog

The final act for my days of outside fun included burning some leaves, twigs, and other yard debris, including some of that Vinca. I built a little fire pit, which is basically a ring of rocks placed on bare ground, a while back and had been filling it with small branches that had fallen out of the trees, and other similar yard waste. There was an old grapevine wreath and the remains of a half whiskey barrel that had seen better days that I threw in there as well.

The other day, I lit the fire, but not until I made sure my new kink-free hose (yeah, we'll see how that goes?) was ready to go, just in case. The fire burned all day. At times I coaxed it along a bit, raking leaves into place and stirring things around a bit. I love burning. There is just something about a good fire.

I love living in the country and being able to efficiently dispose of yard debris. The ash will go great in the compost pile and will one day help the flowers grow.

fire pit collage

This morning I finished up an epic task--cutting the lawn. After a quick trip to the grocery store/gas station, I filled the lawn tractor tank and set out to make it look a little more livable around here.

There is no better season than Springtime and nothing feels better than sprucing things up a bit and working outside. There is still plenty to do, but this work is good work. I just love living in the country!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Who needs a bucket list?

If anyone ever asked me what I wanted, I'd be lost for an answer. The thing is, I simply want to be connected to the world around me. That may ultimately include complexities not yet envisioned, but for right now, it just means I'm pretty content to just enjoy whatever comes along.

To me, all things in life are all about connections. Whether it is a phone call from my kids on Mother's Day, my husband saying thanks when I make him dinner, or the Saturday morning tradition of hearing from my best friend, I relish the people connections in my life.

It would be difficult to make a list of what I want because most of the time, I don't want anything. My bucket is smaller than a vintage soda bottle top. At other times, my wants encompass the entire universe. I guess it all depends on the day. 

rain guageOn this day, I satisfied one desire that might have been listed in that tiny bottle cap. 

It had rained overnight and throughout the weekend. We got between 4 and 4.5 inches of rain, something we definitely needed. The ground hasn't yet made up the deficit from past drought conditions. In addition, I had just planted my garden, which could always use a good rain. 

I absolutely love rainy days, so I was already in pretty good spirits when I woke up this morning. Sleep was especially dreamy. I always keep the windows open, even when it rains--no--especially when it rains. I like to hear the sound of the rain, but even more importantly, when it rains a lot, the dry creek in the backyard makes the most beautiful music. As water rushes over some of the rocks that have been around for thousands of years, it moves others out of its way, constantly and deliberately making its way toward the river miles away. 

I've always heard it, but I've never seen it, at least until this morning. I always wanted to, but just never did. The creek bed is in the middle of our property, at its lowest point. The land on both sides slopes toward it. The woods are pretty dense with all the trees fully leafed. I always assumed the path to the creek would be muddy and messy, tick-infested, and perhaps there would be an abundance of snakes trying to escape the water-soaked ground. I had no desire to encounter them! The best time to hear the creek, would be while it is still raining or very shortly after it stopped, while the water-logged hills were still draining. 

I'm not sure why I never went out to where the water rushes. Watching water flow is one of my favorite things. I love water, though I have a healthy respect for it. Our little creek running is basically just a natural drainage ditch, which in periods of heavy rain becomes a flash flood, something I never really experienced before. I lived my entire life in a flat topography, where drainage issues were often times engineered. Oh, how I have grown to love the dramatic elevations here! 

My husband has labeled our creek, 'Bout Time Creek.' One day after a night of rain we heard it. He said it was 'bout time. The name just stuck.