Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

hummingbird rests
While I truly love the Fall, one of the saddest parts is that I will miss these beloved hummingbirds as they head out on their long long journey south for the winter. I always miss them.

This little female, (pictured above), was perched on a heart-shaped wrought-iron plant hanger. It is positioned just past the front porch, but still beneath the overhang of the roof, so it is always shaded.

front garden
This seems to be a favorite place 
for the usually frenzied fliers to rest those crazy wings of theirs, which flap a feverish 50 to 200 beats per second.

I love to watch them, whether they are flying, hovering, or just sitting and looking around. They don't generally perch for long, because the more aggressive males will generally chase the females. Often times, they simply take her place. No worries. There are lots of shrubs and trees that offer perfect little twigs on which little hummers like to perch.

back porchA few weeks ago I was sitting on the couch talking on the phone when a hummingbird flew right up to the window, and looked right at me, hovering close to the glass. There used to be a hummingbird feeder in the back of the house, until one of the pesky squirrels I've been plagued with this year, knocked it down, shattering the glass on the rocks below. I hadn't replaced it.

But after this encounter, I took the hint and installed a new feeder there. Before long, it became a regular stop for several hummers.

Hummingbirds are said to be smart, with remarkable memories about their food sources, remembering every flower and ever feeder they have visited. I believe they return every year, so some of them are like old friends. They know at this location, there is always clean, fresh nectar for them.

hummersI plan to enjoy them for as long as I can, while they are still here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Just sittin' for a bit

Sometimes you just need some time to sit and enjoy the view.

That's what happened to me on this gorgeous Tuesday morning. The temperature is perfect, there is a slight breeze--just enough to let the leaves dance as they fall from the trees. Tomorrow is certainly the start of Fall. And, all is well here in the Ozarks.

I had just finished mopping the kitchen floor, so I decided to take a minute to chill on the front porch while the floor dried. I went out to sit for a while, my feet resting comfortably atop a homemade stool.

All of a sudden I looked down and realized I wasn't alone. There was a young opossum drinking out of my cat's water dish. I don't know where it came from or when or how it got here. I must have really been deep in thought because the little critter seemingly just appeared.

I haven't seen many possums in the yard. They rarely have rabies, and they are generally nocturnal, so this one was probably asleep and like the rest of us have experienced, he got up because he was thirsty.

I watched for a short time before I decided to get my camera. I didn't get a picture of him drinking, but he did stick around long enough to pose for a few shots. Then off he went.

possum 1

possum pic 2

Funny, as I watched him walk across the front yard, I had an idea where he was going. We have a pretty large oak tree at the edge of the woods that has a huge hollowed out spot near ground level. I swear, that tree must be a neighborhood all its own. That's where all the raccoons run to and from in the night when I catch them stealing bird food. I've seen a squirrel or two take refuge there as well.

And one time, there was a guinea hen sitting on a branch of that very tree, squawking. I couldn't figure out what the heck it was until I got the binoculars and saw it.

There must be something about that tree.

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!