A Gaseous Robin?

July 5, 2011

I happened to look out the window one day and saw this robin sitting in a flower bed.  Something about how he looked made me notice him (her?).

When I first noticed him he looked a little fat, but right before my eyes he quickly swelled up as you see here.  After I took this picture I got distracted.  And a minute or two later when I looked out again …

… he was walking away looking normal!

Can anyone tell me what that was all about?

Update:  My young friend, Beth, at C. Beth Blog did some research on this and passed on the following info:  The Flame Robin is territorial, defending its territory against other members of its species and also Scarlet Robins where they co-occur…. The Flame Robin deploys a number of agonistic displays, including a breast-puffing display where it puffs its breast feathers.” From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_Robin

She points out that the robin species might not be the same, but all robins might exhibit the same behavior.  Sounds logical to me!  Thank, Beth.


A Squirrelly Solution

May 28, 2011

When a squirrel subscribes to his favorite Nuts to You magazine, how does he get it?

He puts up a mailbox.

Happy Saturday!

(I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture when I drove by this unusual sight yesterday.)


Bye, Bye, Birdie

May 25, 2011

A few days ago, Hubby and I noticed this bird’s nest near our front door.

We could see three “babies” (but they looked pretty large.) in the nest, so we took several pictures, trying to get a good one.  That was harder than I would have thought.

So after we had taken a few (We didn’t go closer but stayed on the porch because it was easiest to see into the nest from farther away.), one of the birds surprised us by flying out of the nest.  Apparently it was leave-the-nest day and we just happened to be there to witness that momentous occasion.  Because just a short time later when I went to look at the nest again, they were all three gone.

This is the brave one who left the nest first.

Later when I opened the garage door to leave in the car, I noticed a weed beside this lilac bush next to the garage door. So I walked over to pull it.

After I pulled the weed and started to straighten up, I saw two little eyes looking at me from right inside the bush.  Can you see him?  He’s just about in the middle of the picture and toward the top.  He was sitting very still, and I feel sure that he was one of the first-day-out-of-the-nest guys who decided to sit very still inside that bush and just watch the world go by until he could decide what to do next.  When I returned an hour later, I looked for him again, but he was gone.

And when I went in the house, Hubby pointed out that one of the babies had been sitting on top of one of the chairs on the deck until just before I returned.  And he observed, “They must not be allowed to poop in the nest, because look at all that came out of that one little bird!”   I was sorry I didn’t get a picture of him, just his mess.

They are all gone now, and Hubby will now take down the nest, although I have every confidence that a new one will replace it next year.  And as soon as we wash the evidence off the deck, all signs of the “coming out party” we witnessed will be gone.  But it was fun to get to see.


Wildlife, a Birthday and Triple Yahtzee!

May 16, 2011

Two weeks ago today I made a road trip to my sister, Martha’s house a couple hours away.  I go down to see her ever once in a while, but I especially wanted to go that day because it was her birthday.  And it is a drive that I really don’t mind.  Much of it is on good roads, sometimes even four lanes, through farmland or wooded, rolling hills. And, of course, what makes the trip most enjoyable is that I get to spend time with my sister when I get there!

Martha’s house  is itself in a rural area surrounded with lots of farms and wildlife.

These horses were in a field just a half mile or so from my destination.  Whenever you slow down or stop to look at horses and they come running over to the fence, as these two did, I assume they get treats from people who drive by sometimes.  But I think these may have been some pretty smart horses, because when Martha and I went back past that field on our way to lunch, I told her how interested in me they seemed when I had gone by earlier.  I then slowed down and rolled down my window in hopes of demonstrating their interest.  But, as I said, they must be pretty smart, because they obviously recognized me and/or my car from earlier, and had figured out that this was not a “treat” car, so they totally ignored me that time.

When we returned from lunch, we had some of the cake I had brought to celebrate the day.  Unfortunately, it was my favorite, easy angel food cake that you make in a 9×13 pan, which is definitely not meant to be frosted.  The recipe for disaster was that I baked it just two hours before I was leaving that morning and then, because our mother always glazed angel food cake (but, of course, the traditional shaped kind — tall with a hole in the middle and completely cooled) I decided right before I left to “glaze” this cake too.  Hmmm.  I may have gone too heavy on the glaze, because by the time I got to Martha’s the cake had fallen badly.  But we each had a piece anyway, and actually it was delicious.  It was about an inch high and, because I cut our pieces out of the middle where the frosting had all run, our pieces were half and half — frosting and mooshed cake.  It tasted pretty good and was definitely good for a laugh.

Then we sat down at the kitchen table to play our traditional three games of Triple Yahtzee.  But this time of year, playing at her kitchen table is distracting.  Her husband spreads corn under several trees in the yard every morning before he goes to work.  So the local wildlife knows exactly where to come to get a free meal.  And apparently the word is out that they have nothing to fear at this house, because they are very calm when they see humans, even if we step outside on the deck.

So, here are a few pictures of the animals who strolled up for a little light lunch.

The raccoon started out at the corn by a tree on the other side of the deck from the window where we sat…

but he soon joined the “lunch crowd” at the tree right outside the window.

This blue jay sat on the deck railing for a little bit, apparently just checking things out.

Then he went down and sampled the “buffet” for himself.

He seems to be saying, “Are you looking at ME?”

Then a friend joined him.

At one point there were six out there, but they were all in constant motion so it was hard to get their picture.

Even without the wildlife, I envy Martha and Will this million dollar view.

I took the pictures of the wildlife while sitting at their kitchen table playing Triple Yahtzee with the birthday girl.  And far be it from me to accuse her of “stacking the deck” against me, but I’ll just tell you that she handily won all three games, while I constantly interrupted the game to take another picture.

Happy Birthday again, Martha.  I love you even more than I love the view from your kitchen window!


Is this their version of a line dance?

May 13, 2011


I noticed these two geese each leading a line of babies across the lake.  But I have no idea why they were doing this funny thing with their heads.  Does anyone know?

I know that geese can sometimes be a nuisance, but I love seeing their babies in the Spring.


E.J. and Me

April 7, 2011

Yesterday, I told the story of the wonderful bond that Hubby and his police dog, E.J. had.  But I also mentioned that E.J. wasn’t crazy about me.

Hubby always told me that it was in my head that E.J. didn’t like me.  And he said he believed the whole root of the problem between us was that E.J. could tell I didn’t trust him and he was reacting to those negative vibes he was getting from me.  Yeah, right.

Anyway, one day Hubby decided that this was the day that E.J. and I were going to become friends.  And we were going to accomplish that through a medium we could both relate to — food.

Hubby cut a hot dog into five or six pieces and put them on a plate on the table next to where I was sitting.  Then he told me to call E.J. over to me … but DON’T PUT YOUR HAND OUT TO HIM.  Of course, he said that because that was how I and others had previously received warning bites on our hands.  So he instructed me to just call E.J. over to me and then to tell him to, “Sit!”.

I did and he did.

Hubby reminded me to not act intimated by E.J.  Okay, I’m sitting there looking straight into the eyes of a not very friendly 200 lb., big black dog and “not being intimidated”.

Hubby next told me to pick up a piece of the hot dog, hold it out to E.J., and then after he took it and ate it, pat him ever so gently on top of the head and say, “Good boy.”

Okay, I could do this.  I held the first piece of hot dog in my fingers and offered it to E.J.  He took it and ate it.  I then patted him ever so gently on top of the head.  “Good boy!”  Hey, it looked like this might be the start of a new warmer relationship between us!

So I gave him a second piece and then a third, patting him ever so gently on top of the head and praising him after each.

I really was feeling more confident.  Maybe Hubby was right.  Maybe it had been me who just hadn’t figuratively reached out to E.J. before!

Then I gave him the fourth piece of hot dog.  Then I reached out to pat him again (eveeeeer so gently, of course) on the head.  Then he grabbed my hand in his trademark not to hard, but firm I-don’t-want-you-to-touch-me bite.  End of experiment.

I gave Hubby my best I-told-you-so look and went to do other things –things I was more successful at like sweeping and doing laundry.  Things that were alot more “fun” than trying to convince a big, black, grumpy dog that he should like me when he was obviously not going to change his mind about me, even when I was bearing hot dogs.

So, E.J. and I never did develop a close relationship, but I did love that dog because I knew that he always had the back of the man I loved.  That was enough.


Bunny’s breakfast interrupted

July 12, 2010

Just after daybreak the other morning, I went out to get the morning paper and caught a little rabbit sitting in the flower bed that surrounds the lamppost having his breakfast … a piece of one of our plants!  My first thought was “you wascally wittle wabbit” as Elmer Fudd would have said, but my second thought was “photo op!” and I went to get my camera.

When I first saw him, he had this little stalk from one of our plants in his mouth, busily chewing on it.  But when he saw me, he immediately quit chewing and just sat perfectly still, stalk still in mouth.  I picture him thinking, “If I sit perfectly still she won’t notice me.”  And he probably thought that had worked when I disappeared into the house, but when I walked back out with the camera and looked straight at him as I prepared to take a picture, he quickly realized the gig was up, dropped the evidence and ran behind the bushes next to the house.

When I walked around the bushes far enough that I could make eye contact with him, he realized this wasn’t a particularly good hiding place.

He came out to sit on the sidewalk and just looked at me for a minute.

Then he ran out on the driveway and again, just sat there and watched me.

“Rats. This annoying person isn’t going away.  So I’ll just have to lead her on a wild hare chase!”

He went to the back yard and the last I saw of him he was headed around to the other side yard where there are lots of hostas.  Do bunnies like hostas?

This may look like just a stick to us, but by the way the bunny seemed reluctant to leave the area, I would say it must have tasted like steak to him!


Just a Dog

May 16, 2010

I received the following in an e-mail yesterday and I was so touched by what Catherine Moore had written that I wanted to share it with you.  At the bottom of the e-mail it said to share it with four of your friends, so I don’t think that she will mind that I share it here.

May this touch your heart as it touched mine:

CHEYENNE

By Catherine Moore

‘Watch out! You nearly broadsided that car!’ My father yelled at me. ‘Can’t you do anything right?’ Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.

‘I saw the car, Dad.. Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving.’ My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt.

Dad glared at me, then, turned away and settled back. At home, I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon . He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day, I saw him outside alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctor’s orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned and then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust. Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon, I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue. Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session, he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind. But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do it.

The next day, I sat down with the phone book and methodically called each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered. In vain. Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, ‘I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.’ I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one, but rejected one after the other for various reasons, too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen, a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed. Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. ‘Can you tell me about him?’ The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement..

‘He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him; that was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.’ He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in, I turned to the man in horror. ‘You mean you’re going to kill him?’

‘Ma’am,’ he said gently, ‘that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.’

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. ‘I’ll take him,’ I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house, I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.

‘Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!’ I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. ‘If I had wanted a dog, I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it’ Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples.

‘You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!’ Dad ignored me.. ‘Did you hear me, Dad?’ I screamed. At those words, Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate.

We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when, suddenly, the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him.. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently.. Then, Dad was on his knees, hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne . Together, he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then, late one night, I was startled to feel Cheyenne ‘s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night. I woke Dick, put on my robe, and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later, my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned, overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life. And, then, the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. ‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers.’

‘I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,’ he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right article.

Cheyenne’s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter, his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father, and the proximity of their deaths. And, suddenly, I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama & petty things, so laugh hard, love truly, and forgive quickly. Live While You Are Alive. Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity. Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

May your Sunday be blessed.  Sandra


Don’t Duck the Question!

April 27, 2010

I love “before” and “afters” — I suppose that’s the reason I enjoy the Home and Garden Network on TV so much!

So, regarding the picture I posted yesterday (btw, this is one of the spring-fed ponds in our addition and it occurs to me that I should assure you that that isn’t oil on the surface.  This was taken in late afternoon  and the design on the water comes from reflections of near-by homes), here is the “before”, straight out of the camera:

and here is the “after” that I posted:

Have I ever mentioned?  I love color!  So when I adjusted the saturation of the colors in the original, I was delighted with all the vivid color that showed up in the “after” that reminded me of an abstract painting.

But later I looked back at the original and second guessed myself (another hobby of mine) that maybe it was the best version after all, because the duck is the most colorful thing in the photo.

And, if I crop the original . . .

. . . it puts more emphasis on the duck .

I have many other variations of this picture that I won’t bore you with.  But let me just say that when I get a photo that interests me like this one does, it pays for itself in entertainment value, in the fun time I have playing with it!

Now … the question.  Did I post the right version of the picture?  Or, to be perfectly honest, should I have posted it straight out of the camera?  Because I’m fairly new at this, I’m never sure of the ethics of photography.  In order to be completely truthful, should I always post pictures “as is”?  I really don’t know.

I’m not sure I can ever be cured of my addiction to color, but I will certainly take to heart any opinions you have!

Okay, I do have to share one other variation that I really like …

Oh, and I forgot this one — I really like it too …

Stop!  Get a grip, Sandra.  Just step away from the duck picture and go do something else!

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Duck in Abstract

April 26, 2010

To see some of the interesting detail, click on the picture once to make it screen size.

May your Monday be just ducky!