Sunday, May 22, 2016

Down With the Ash

Way back in October, I mentioned I was going to have the dead ash tree, located off the northwest corner of the house, taken down. I had sort of ignored it for a couple years, but it was reaching a point where I could see it becoming a danger to the house and the neighbor's drive and yard. I got a wonderful price from Evergreen Tree Service in nearby Warrenville. They were to call me the day before they took the tree down as I kind of wanted to see it go.

Well, that didn't happen. I came home at the end of October, on a cloudy Friday, and the sky in the backyard was noticeably different. There seemed to be much more light than usual.

The ash was gone. I was a bit miffed. We had agreed that I'd be called, but I had not given them a number beyond my home number and they had a cancellation on that day. I can't fault the guy for bumping this project up to keep a crew busy. This is what remained.

The trash trees around the tree area were removed. The stump was left that height on purpose. I bought this table/ground feeder from Duncraft.

It sits very nicely on the top of the stump.

The idea is I will put squirrel food in here and begin feeding birds off the deck. The key was going to be anchoring the feeder to the top of the stump. At Ace Hardware, their idea was to take off the roof of the feeder, drill two holes through the plastic in the bottom and use two anchor bolts which would be drilled into the top of the feeder. Since the feeder is not flush with the top of the stump, I wouldn't have a worry about food getting moldy, although with the squirrels in my yard, that would never be a problem. My original idea was to get a couple of locks and a small length of chain and use anchor bolts to lock the chain to the side of the stump. The feeder couldn't "walk away", if you will, nor could it be blown off the stump by high winds or if some squirrels had a wrestling match for supremacy of the peanuts.

The more I thought about this, the more I didn't like either idea. While mulling over what I could do, I found some rather stale sunflower bits and deposited those on top of the stump.

I figured if the squirrels didn't like these the raccoons would so there was no danger of these just rotting on top of the stump. Indeed, the mess was gone in 3 days.

Meanwhile, I was adding peanuts to the ground feeder which sat on a table on the deck. It's proven to be a big hit.

Off and on all winter, I added a bag of unshelled and unsalted peanuts, purchased from the grocery, to the feeder. It's incredibly comical to sit in the office and watch several squirrels climb up into the feeder, grab a peanut, and sprint away. In this photo, I added some stale dried cranberries found in the back of the cupboard. They ate those, too, although a possum got into the feeder to clean out what hadn't been eaten and then got stuck trying to turn around. I heard this awful crash that night, on the deck and when I shined a light out there, the animal figured out how to free itself and sprinted, well, ambled fast, off the deck.

I have ordered bird food before from Duncraft so I looked through what they had to offer in terms of "wildlife" goodies. They have these blocks of food. I bought one to see how it would go over.

It sits on top of the stump, ready and waiting for critters to feast. I shouldn't have worried about whether this would be well received.

I think it takes about 2 hours for them to realize a new block has been placed. At the lower left of the stump is the tail of a black squirrel. I'm thrilled to see that in the yard, in addition to the red and gray ones. I'm pretty sure raccoons and probably possums gnaw on the block as I'll come out in the morning and find it knocked off the stump.

It takes, roughly, three days to reduce a block to remnants on the ground.

In another day, not even this is left. Unfortunately, the location of the stump is not in a sight line to sit somewhere, other than the deck, to watch the feasting. I am currently without a food block. I am debating joining their food club. I'd get 10% off any food I purchase. I could, if I so desire, schedule food deliveries. Would the 10% off cover shipping and tax? I don't know. I'll have to crunch numbers to see if the budget would allow something like this. I have three other feeders, one new and two dormant, which I want to put around the house. Depending upon how fast they are emptied and what kind of food I decide to go with, a food club might pay for itself.

Since October, we've had some days of very, very high winds; 50 mph sustained with gusts up to 65 mph. I just know had the ash still been standing, I'd be looking at a large home repair due to a branch coming down. As much as I know I had different bird species using the tree for food, since it would have been full of insects, I'm so glad I removed it. I think, given what I've done with the stump, the squirrels are glad, too.

Beverage:  Water


Socks For a New Year

Remember when you were younger and, if someone asked you what you wanted for, say, Christmas, your mind raced to all the high end items you could think of? Well, mine did. Nothing was below $50, which is still a princely sum for one item gift. Life can feel like a game of oneupmanship; who has what and how can I get something comparable. That happens when you attach your self-worth to things. Funny how it takes having a lot of your ability to spend removed to have you look at what you really value.

When someone asks me what I want for [insert holiday], I really look at what gives me pleasure. It's not the cost that pleases me. It's the item and the sentiment which is, I hope, behind the gift. I've been so bad this first half of the year in not getting cards out for birthdays or holidays. If I do get the cards out, it's just a card with nothing hand written beyond my name. I have had no gumption to scribble words and my head feels like someone drained my personal dictionary. I feel as if I came into contact with the "villain" in The Ink Drinker. (This is a great book, too.) And sending a small token of my estimation of someone has been kind of right out. I have this, probably mistaken, belief that I simply cannot just send a card and, say, a Valentine's gift, without there being a 6 page letter attached. I'm fairly certain my friends will accept most anything I send them just to keep in touch.

So Valentine's Day came and I managed to get some cards out. One of my best friends, Patt, sent a small packet, which made me feel badly because I don't remember sending her anything. She sent me socks; wonderful, glorious socks.

Aren't those cool? I love the bright colors. She also sent these.

Cats. Best socks have cats on them.

Mother's Day arrived. I really botched that holiday. I didn't even get my mother a card, but I went to Iowa to get her and bring her to Illinois for her trip to Virginia. I bought her lunch and dinner for Mother's Day as we journeyed to Illinois. Carole sent a nice package with, you guessed it, socks.

Flying pigs!

Regal cats.

More cats and polka-dots. The last pair is the best.

Breakfast! I laughed so loudly when I opened these.

What this means is I can critically appraise my socks and remove those which are thread bare. I am thrilled. New socks are so comfortable. I would be happy if everyone gave me socks as a gift. I'm not fishing, mind you, just making an observation. These were such unexpected and fun gifts. Socks. I love socks.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Saturday, May 21, 2016


Recently, my mom and sister, Sharyn, went to visit Carole and Larry in Virginia. I drove to Iowa the first weekend in May and picked up mom. She stayed at the house for a day while I worked and that evening, we drove into Chicago, in a driving, pouring, beastly rain, to pick Sharyn up at the Greyhound station.

Ironically, I had inspected that station, twice, for a very large road construction project currently going on a couple blocks away. The rain had stopped by the time Sharyn arrived so the drive home wasn't quite so sloppy.

We got up at 4 am the next morning, to pack up the car and head to O'Hare. They had an 8:30 am flight to Richmond, Virginia.

This is a really big deal. Mom hates flying. Once you get her in the air, it's not so bad and I'm told she even looked out the window once or twice. But she has issues with the pressure encountered when you take off and land. She said landing at O'Hare on the way back was horrible. Her face hurt so much she almost cried. The week spent with Carole and Larry was worth it, however.

While out there, Sharyn saw these.

This is an orb spider. They only come out at night. They were all over Carole and Larry's front porch and across the front of the garage. There was some "freaking out" when Sharyn pointed them out and a request to "Kill them! Kill them all!" Sharyn will have none of that nonsense. She knows, as I do, spiders are extremely beneficial. If you don't want to be eaten by mosquitos or have your deck plants chewed on by nasty bugs, you need to keep spiders around. Of course, they don't need to be in the house. We both try to gather the arachnoid onto something and fling it into the yard, where it belongs. Sharyn said the orb spiders in Michigan aren't as pretty as these. A friend said she'd be more afraid of the shadowy thing in the background than the spider. The angle of the light on the spider does make for an interesting shadow.

They are home now. I drove Sharyn to the bus stop and mom to Iowa. Pilchard and Mija weren't happy there were others in their house, but we all survived, including, I might add, the spiders on Carole and Larry's front porch.

Beverage:  Cream soda


So You Don't Have To

I'm late with this food review. However, it's important to post my thoughts so, when they come around again, you have an idea of how I felt about these.

These were out around Valentine's Day. I'd heard about them from members of my World of Warcraft guild. I didn't get out much in February, so trying to find them took a back seat to just existing. Then, I had to go to Target for something and they were on an end cap. I won't eat coconut or mint M&Ms and I've heard a rumor of chili-spiced which is But something like this, I'll try.

As advertised on the package, they were pink, white and ivory. Taste? Well, they weren't bad. I've railed in this space about how I think M&M's needs to stay with what they do best: peanut, milk, and peanut butter M&M's. I'd allow the crispy ones. Those aren't bad either. The almond ones are blah. I know people who adore the coconut and mint ones so those can be on the shelf, too. But all the different flavors seem to me to be diluting what they do best. At Target right now are red, white and blue M&Ms. I can get behind changing the colors on the brands. That's a clever way to make them relevant to the upcoming holiday, but multiple flavors? I bought a bag of strawberry shortcake M&Ms. They were not horrible like the candy corn or pumpkin ones were, but they aren't anything I can't live without. There was a hint of strawberry but the overwhelming flavor was artificial white cake. Strawberry shortcake is an amalgam. It shouldn't be mostly about the cake. These were more bland than exciting.

So, my recommendation is, if you like M&Ms and want something of a novelty AND they are on sale, buy a bag. Otherwise, save your pennies or support the original flavors. Sometimes I get concerned that they will be so busy trying for new flavors that they will forget to make M&M's with peanuts.

Beverage:  Water