Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Unusual Deck Visitor

I stepped outside and what a surprise! There on our deck sat a Worm-eating Warbler. We are on the fringes of its territory, but I had never seen one. Perhaps he was after some of the Kamikaze Katydids we find every morning. Because of his posture I suspect he had been stunned and was recovering. So I quickly took a photograph even though conditions were less than ideal and went inside. We have found that approaching stunned birds often causes them to fly before they have recovered.

He was a beautiful bird and he took off quickly and expertly. Perhaps he was not stunned after all, but I'm glad I didn't take any chances. Interestingly enough, the Worm-eating Warbler does not eat earthworms at all. But he loves caterpillars which many people call worms. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (here) calls this bird "drab." To their credit they do mention that he is "elegantly marked." I thought he was beautiful. And another lifer. And right here on my deck. And we're not even getting the migrating birds yet!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fridays are Golden

It's been a quiet week for us. We are finally having some "normal" weather with cool nights, warm days, and afternoon thunderstorms. The Golden Girls are energized by the brisk mornings and they romp and play until they are tired.

When it's time to relax, Lucy waits for Ellie to lie down. Then she goes over to lie on the same bed. I don't think Ellie really likes it, but it seems too much bother to get up and move. Besides, she was there first.

Other times Lucy relaxes in rather odd positions. I don't understand how the hard rung of the chair could be a comfortable pillow but it seems to suit her just fine.

The following photograph is for my daughter who always brings new toys when she visits. This one was supposed to make a very funny picture for my blog, but no matter how hard we tried, neither dog would put it properly in her mouth. I fear, dear daughter, that this may be the best we can do.

As I look out the window, I can see that the trees are beginning to lose their glossy green and are becoming a bit dusky. A sure sign that summer is ending and fall is on the way. I'm looking forward to the migration and do hope we catch the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks we missed during spring migration.

While this week has been quiet for us here on the mountain, it has been far from quiet throughout the rest of the country and the world. Spend some time this weekend thinking of those in need. Spend less time feeling sorry for yourself and reflect more on those who are suffering at levels we cannot even imagine.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Deck Visitor

I walked into the room and saw a bird clinging to the window screen. I grabbed the camera for this shot. Thinking the bird might be caught in the wire, I quietly went out the other door to see if I could help. All right! I also wanted a clear photograph!!! But my primary mission was to help the bird.

The bird was not stuck at all. It immediately flew into the woods and I didn't get a photograph.

We are in the marginal range of the Black and White Warbler and rarely see them. They act rather like nuthatches, creeping along the bark of trees searching for insects. Wonder if there were bugs on the screen?

Interesting that within a week's time I have come upon two warblers that we don't often see. I also won a drawing from The Thundering Herd (here), and from Vicki Lane (here). Our local bird expert wrote about my Blue-winged Warbler sighting in her weekly newspaper column. I'm feeling pretty lucky. Maybe it's time to buy a lottery ticket. Oh, and since we don't like gambling around here it is the North Carolina Education Lottery since a bit of the money goes to the schools. Did you know they have scratch-offs that cost TWENTY dollars?

Monday, August 23, 2010

She Holds a Century of Culture

We met her three years ago quite by accident. We were visiting a local glass artisan's shop and she was sitting on the screened porch having a glass of lemonade. Such an engaging and friendly person, she struck up a conversation with us. (All modesty aside, my husband and I are pretty engaging and friendly too. All right...we ARE friendly.) We sat down on the porch and had a wonderful 30-minute chat with Vera Stinson.

It quickly became apparent that Vera (she insisted that we call her Vera) was the genuine article. A real North Carolina mountain woman. We chatted for quite some time and found that we had many things in common. I could have listened to her all day, but too soon she had to leave. Before she left, she asked us how old we thought she was. We absolutely declined to hazard a guess. (Been burned with that one before.) "Well," she said, "If the good Lord sees fit, I'll be 97 on August 19th." We were appropriately surprised. She is both physically and mentally in very good health. Holding herself erect, she didn't even use a cane.

(Photograph from The Transylvania Times, taken last month)

We soon discovered that Vera Stinson is a living legend around here. She was born August 19, 1910 in Cedar Mountain, not far from where we live. William Howard Taft was the President and the United States population was 92 million. The average life expectancy for women was 51.8 years of age. The average annual salary was $750.00.

Vera, widely known as a keeper of oral history started writing a book at age 90. The book's title gives some insight into Vera's love for words. She chose Stumbling Blocks Were Stepping Stones in Appalachia because her family always met their challenges and crises and overcame them.

This is Vera's book. Her parents are pictured on the cover standing in front of the "old homeplace."

(This photograph is our own copy. She inscribed it: 'Best wishes to R and Carolyn; friends of mine from Cinti, Ohio.' She had been delighted that we once had lived in Cincinnati and she had lived there as well, so that made us her friends from Cinti.)

The book tells the story of her family, and of life in the mountains so long ago. It is filled with anecdotes and while it may not be great literature, it gives a reflection of life in the mountains over the last century. It tells of a time when singing, talking and story telling made up the evenings in family circles around the fire. Vera clearly loves to tell stories and who cares if they are embellished a bit?

Vera gives the following advice in her book:
"Don't begin to write a book when you are ninety years old and complete it when you are ninety-five. At this age your mind plays tricks on you read, try to imagine how it was to grow up in a family of ten in what was then a wilderness...I'll admit that writing these stories was more difficult than telling. When I tell my stories, you hear my enthusiasm for my mountains. As you read my story, I hope the words will convey what my heart feels for these hills."

Vera, I don't think your mind is playing any tricks on you yet. And we do feel the enthusiasm as we read the stories.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Fridays are Golden

It's easier to find a personal physician than it is to find the right veterinarian. Long before we found our own physicians when we moved back to NC, we took the girls to their new vet. We very much liked him and his approach to us and to our dogs. After examining them, he said they were "within a pound of perfection." (They had gained a little weight while our friend was caring for them.) He asked us about their food. We had always fed them the food recommended by the breeder. Our vet diplomatically said that he wasn't particularly fond of that food because it contained too much grain. Then he added that our dogs were so healthy with wonderful coats, teeth, and gums that he would not change their diet since they seemed to thrive on it.

This summer Lucy began having occasional GI problems. Our vet thought this might be a good time to change their food. So we did.

When my husband leaves the house for any length of time, the girls get up as soon as they hear his car. They run to the laundry room waiting for him to come inside.

The instant they hear the car door open they each go closer to the door. Lucy, of course, must be first in line.
On this occasion my husband had been to the pet store to get a new supply of dog food. They have been on this new food for a couple of months and they really like it.

They check out the bag just like they check out everything we bring in.

Lucy carefully reads the label to make certain we have the right thing.

She checks it out from top to bottom.

Although Ellie can probably read, she prefers looking at the pictures.
The "new" dog food is Taste of the Wild. This particular formula has roasted venison and roasted bison. It is grain free, and contains sweet potatoes, berries, and tomatoes instead. It contains 32% protein. Our previous food (Iams Large Breed) contained only 22% protein and a lot of grain including barley, corn, and sorghum grain. I have no idea whether or not the higher grain food was a contributing factor in Lucy's GI problems, but I do feel better that we switched. The girls have no opinion at all. They will wolf down anything they are given.

A quick change of subject here, but I cannot think of another way to transition.

Our Nation and the rest of the world are full of problems and disasters. As I have listened to the news it seems very clear to me that we are becoming more and more polarized. It has always been true that non-political issues are politicized, especially during election years. But this year seems to be the worst. People are becoming ever more intolerant of others who do not share their religious views, political views, skin color, or life styles.

Kofi Annan said these important words:

"We need to promote greater tolerance and understanding among the peoples of the world. Nothing can be more dangerous to our efforts to build peace and development than a world divided along religious, ethnic, or cultural lines. In each nation, and among all nations, we must work to promote unity based on our shared humanity."

None of us individually can make the Nation or the world more tolerant of others. We can (and must) be more tolerant ourselves, and teach that tolerance to our children. So make a pledge this weekend to be more accepting of others and less vocal about criticizing those who are different.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Year of Freshmen

Every year Beloit College in Wisconsin provides information about the mindset of the incoming freshman class. Most of the Class of 2014 were born in 1992. Here are some facts about them. You can find the complete Mindset List here.

- Few of these students know how to write in cursive.

- A fourth of this class has at least one parent who is an immigrant.

- Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

- The haven't likely seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

- Their computers have always had a CD-ROM drive.

- They likely don't recognize that pointing to one's wrist is a request for the time of day. They rarely wear watches but check the time on their cell phones.

-Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

- They first heard of Michelangelo as a computer virus.

- Ruth Bader Ginsbursg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

- They have never worred about a Russian missle strike on the U.S.

- They seldom write letters or otherwise use "snail mail."

- DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed for them.

- The first computers they used are now likely found in museums.

- Queen Elizabeth declared the year they were born as an "Annus Horribilis." (Though the reasons were unrelated to their births."

- There has always been a free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.

Check out the complete list. You are sure to find it interesting.

I will add one thing that was not listed. Brett Favre was traded to the Green Bay Packers the year they were born. BTW: he recently flew back to Minnesota. Wonder if he will retire? Or retire and change his mind? I do need to get a life, don't I?

Monday, August 16, 2010

It Pays to Consult the Birding Experts

I am NOT an expert at bird identification, especially warblers, and especially juvenile warblers. I saw a little yellow bird on Friday but couldn't get a photograph. As luck would have it, he hopped onto the deck on Saturday while I had my camera at the ready trying to find something of interest.

I wasn't at all sure what kind of bird it might be. I thought it was likely a Pine Warbler or possibly a Common Yellowthroat. We had not seen any adult Pine Warblers recently, but we had seen adult yellowthroats. I sent the photographs to a local bird expert.

Imagine my surprise when she told me it was a juvenile Blue-Winged Warbler! A lifer for me, and I had no idea. There are no records of breeding pairs in our county, so it seems this little guy might have wandered over a neighboring county where they are rare, but nesting pairs have been documented.

I won't even complain that it was such a cloudy day and the pictures would have been so much better with in the sunshine.

I was content to have gotten the photograph and glad that I was skeptical enough to seek an expert's opinion. My thanks to all of you who are experts and willing to share your knowledge. Oh, I can't wait for the fall migration!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Our Lucy is a warm, loving, affectionate, and obedient dog. She is not a mellow dog. She goes at almost everything with speed. When the dogs are running, Ellie paces herself and goes the distance. Lucy, on the other hand, sprints like crazy until she is so tired she has to stop.

Like most Golden Retrievers, our dogs seem to lack a satiety center. They will immediately consume any food that is given to them. Lucy is even worse than most. She gulps down her food in a matter of seconds. By doing that, she sometimes takes in a lot of air which leads to GI discomfort and occasionally urgent loose stools.

Our veterinarian advised us to slow down the pace at which Lucy eats her food. He suggested several remedies.

This is the food/water tray Lucy has used since she outgrew her puppy bowl:

And this is the new feeding dish, one of the options our vet suggested. Made of non-stick metal, the dish has three projections in the middle of the dish. They are sufficiently close together that a dog cannot grab large amounts of food at once and wolf it down. Additionally, the dish is more narrow at the top and wider at the base.

When we put the dish in place, Lucy looked rather puzzled.
Where's my bowl?

Lucy gets one cup of food for breakfast and another cup for dinner. To further slow her eating, we put only half a cup in the new dish at one time. When she consumes that we give her the other half.

If you enlarge this one, you can see Lucy's tongue wrapping around the projections in the dish.

In order to get all the food, she had to keep moving to different areas of the dish. It was rather amusing to see Ellie. She ate her food at her normal pace, which is considerably slower than Lucy. She seemed puzzled that Lucy was still eating, since Lucy always finishes first and comes over to watch Ellie eat. In the past, if we didn't monitor the whole thing Lucy would help Ellie finish her dinner. And Ellie would let her.
We are delighted with the dish and time will tell if it solves her problems. We already know it slows her down and that is a good thing.

This morning I had the television on while I ate breakfast. The following "news" items were discussed:
1) 20% of Pakistan is under water from flooding
2) More than a thousand people are missing and 337 people are dead from landslides in China
3) The citizens of the town of Ames, Iowa are without water after record-breaking floods caused city water mains to break.
4) A frustrated flight attendant "lost it" and screamed profanities over the planes loud speaker; then he opened the emergency exit, lowered the evacuation shoot and slid down to the tarmac.
I don't have to tell you which story got the most reporting. That says so many things about the media and what people apparently want to hear. And what it says is very frightening indeed. So this weekend, reflect on your own priorities and concerns. When you figure them out, act on them.

It's Friday the 13th. I'm not a superstitious person by nature, but be careful out there.

This photograph comes from "I can haz hot dog."

Here's hoping you will find joy as we bear yet another hot and steamy weekend. Let the work go and just relax. It's too hot to do anything else.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sometimes We Do Share

We live in the woods. Squirrels live in the woods. We feed the birds. Squirrels like the same food. So it's a constant struggle trying to outwit the squirrels, who by the way, have plenty of nuts and berries around.

We have a variety of birdfeeders offering different kinds of seeds and suet. The squirrels have shown little interest in trying to get at the feeder with cracked sunflower seeds so we have not used a baffle to protect it. At any given time, there are several different types of birds at the stations. We almost always see nuthatches, chickadees, titmice and goldfinches when we look out at this feeder. They seem to have no problem sharing.

In fact, we have had some rather unusual visitors to this particular feeder. Here a female Pileated Woodpecker and a female Eastern Towhee are feeding. A bit strange for the woodpecker to go for the seeds at a feeder clearly not well-designed for woodpeckers. And the towhee is usually a ground feeder. But they shared nonetheless.

I mentioned that squirrels have not been particularly interested in this feeder. Well, that was true until this week. And, wouldn't you know? One of the beady-eyed monsters was determined to try some of this seed.

Well, we can put a stop to that. One of my husband's PVC pipe and duct tape baffles now surrounds the pole. When the squirrel tries to climb, the pipe swivels. Not especially pretty, but quite effective. (This is the second generation homemade baffle, by the way. There's always a method for a man to improve any invention using PVC pipe and duct tape.) Since the birdfeeders hang from the upper deck at the back of the house looks aren't terribly important.

In all our years of feeding birds, this is the only truly squirrel-proof feeder we have found. It has a spring tension that shuts off the food at a given weight. We have had others with springs that shut down with the weight of large birds (doves) and squirrels. But in each of those, the squirrel would eventually learn to hang from his hind leg and scoop the seeds without tripping the spring. The current feeder is longer than the squirrel so he can't do that little trick. Well, unless we have a basketball playing squirrel who towers above all the others. So far we have had only normal-sized rascals. This particular feeder is made by Wild Birds Unlimited and is called the WBU Eliminator. (Oh, if it REALLY eliminated the squirrels I would pay a fortune for it.) But it does eliminate the squirrel feeding.

It is almost blasphemous to hate squirrels in Transylvania County. We have white squirrels here and Brevard promotes them as big tourist draws. (Guess the scenery, waterfalls, and national forests aren't enough.) You name any type of tacky souvenir you can imagine. Yep, we've got that with a white squirrel on it.

We occasionally see them in our forest and I don't like them any better than the gray ones. I just call them the beady-eyed white devils.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Not Sharing at All

Several people wondered why Lucy was looking so morose in Friday's post. Simple. I was out in the yard and she was left inside. She stood at the window watching me the entire time I was photographing our aggressive little hummingbirds.

Here are a few of the shots. You might need to click to enlarge.

Hummer number one is sitting cautiously at the feeder.

Hummer number two flies in.

Chasing number one backward.

Number two sits at the feeder just as cautiously.

In an instant they are at it again.

Hummer number three joins in the fracas.

Number two hovers over the feeder, sitting but not sipping and ready for more battle.

Which comes soon enough.

The birds chase each other continuously. Often they bump into each other and temporarily drop toward the ground. They whirl straight up, they dive down, and they chase each other all over the yard. Number two clings to the feeder like a chickadee, trying to defend the space.
The same scenario is playing out at the backyard feeder as well. At a given moment, I can stand in the kitchen watching the fight out front and turn to watch another one on the deck in back. I can assure you the birds are getting some nectar. I've had to fill all three feeders every day. Why can't they share the table like Jayne's birds do?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fridays are Golden

This afternoon I was out taking some pictures and noticed Lucy staring at me from the dining room window. Interesting discovery. If you take a photograph with a 300mm lens and shoot through a screen at your dog, the resulting picture looks almost like a painting.

My friend and I had such a nice visit despite the fact that the miserable weather kept us indoors more than we would have liked. The Golden Girls loved having yet another person to pet them. After my friend left I was carrying the linen and towels from the guest bedroom. Ellie started sniffing the towels and sniffed them all the way to the laundry room. They miss her already and so do I.

School has started in some Western NC counties. I can tell the sun is setting a bit earlier every day and it's hard to believe summer is winding down. Seems as if it just got here.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Since Fifth Grade

Our family moved to Boone, NC when I was 10. One of the first friends I made in fifth grade is still one of my dearest friends. And she is coming for a visit. So, yes...I'm taking another break this week.

We've been through a lot together, my friend and I. We don't see each other as often as we'd like, but I know that if she called me in the middle of the night and said she needed me; I would get dressed and go without asking for any details. And she would do the same for me.

Our lives have been different, but in many ways we are alike. We can talk forever without running out of things to say. And we can sit in silence as well. It's rare indeed to have a friend who knows almost every detail about your life over so many decades and yet when you get together, it's as if you are both 10 again. We'll talk and giggle and have a great time. Even better now that we are old enough to drink wine.

What? You're taking another break? But you'll still be around to fill the feeders and give me fresh water, won't you?
So I'll follow your blogs, but I won't have time to post. See you next week.