Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mr. Squirrel Smiled at Me.
Squirrels 11, Humans 0

I was looking for snack food at Sam's Club and saw an enormous bag of peanuts in the shell. I thought that might be fun to eat, a little at a time. Once home, I was tempted to put a few peanuts on the window ledge.

Every so often I put a few out and closed the window. Birds and squirrels quickly adapt to random food and come looking for it. Soon I had three small squirrels stopping by to look for food. Sassy Sue got used to the traffic.

I was careful to open the window a little bit, push some peanuts out, and close it again. I was concerned about the squirrel getting into the room, revving Sassy, and racing around the house in a panic. I was even more concerned about my wife's reaction to such an event and the inevitable growth of the tale afterwords.

I saw a lot of squirrel traffic one day, so I edged the window up an inch. Just as I pushed a peanut out, a squirrel came by and grabbed it. The saucy little thing sat on the ledge and ate it, smiling. The picture above is not mine. I really saw the squirrel smile.

They are all laughing at me. I got the squirrel-proof bird feeder to prevent them from looting the seed. I added the baffle for $13.50 to keep them from climbing the pole, once they learned to get at the feeder and pump the bar. Soon they stood on the baffle to pump the bar.
This squirrel is demonstrating how to use the bar to jiggle seed.
Why sit on it and close off an abundant supply of sunflower seeds?

I let the worthless baffle slip down to the ground. Now the squirrels climb the pole, hold on with one front leg, and pump the bar with the other front leg. I have also seen them pump the bar with both front legs. Rather that keep them from eating, the bar serves to jiggle seed into their mouths.

They are more entertaining now. First the bar jiggle is fun to watch. Squirrels are athletic and inventive. They can get at the feeder from every angle. The second part is fun, too. They get a few seeds, jump over to the ledge, and eat while keeping an eye on me while I work or watch.

A chipmunk has climbed up to the ledge to eat, but he simply stuffs his mouth with as many seeds as possible, and leaves. He must have figured out that the ledge was more productive than the ground where he got the scattered seed.

Sassy Sue's window is next to me and behind the bed. She parks at the window and watches over her neighborhood. She is quite upset when a chipmunk comes up to the secondary feeder below her window. She also watches for the fox that seems to appear from time to time. Then Sassy bays like a German Shepherd, "The fox is here, come to kill us all." The Shelties join the chorus, "Kill us all. Kill us all."
Treasure smiles when she is looking for food,
for attention she lifts up one front paw.

If the UPS truck drives up, Sassy bays again, "The UPS driver is here, come to kill us all." The Shelties add to the noise. "All, All. He will kill us all."

If someone rings the bell and waits for me, Sassy runs to the door and barks at it, warning whoever is ringing that she will defend the entire house. She races to me, "Hurry. Hurry. You open the door. I will attack at once." I open the door and Sassy wiggles outside for petting and a greeting. Everyone loves her at once.

At the dog park I warn people that she is loud but gentle. The only problem has been with large, intimidating dogs. I have decided to leave when a pit bull is present. Those dogs are gifted with muscle and no brain.

Sassy is just starting to learn dog racing. Most breeds love to chase around the park, but they cannot catch a ball or bring it back. One mutt spent about 30 minutes deciding what a ball was before stealing Sassy's. The bright orange ball is magical to the other dogs, because Sassy catches it, gets applause, and brings it back while everyone talks about her. The dogs ignore 10 balls on the ground for Sassy's magical toy.

Sassy Sue watches me while I work, clamping down on my
right arm when she wants attention.
When I give up, she rolls over and laughs.
"Tummy rub time."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dog Park Star and Entertainer - Sassy Sue

Our granddaughter was not hurt when the chair went over.
She held her pose for the photograph,
and Sassy Sue came into the shot to smile.
We were all laughing.

Nothing shows Sassy Sue's character more than this photo. Danielle fell over in the easy chair, a very soft landing. We were all laughing as I said, "Hold it so I can get a photograph." Sassy saw me get the camera ready and poked herself into the shot, grinning.

Sassy smiles a lot and gets other smiling.

She is the star of the Bentonville dog park. In 30 months only one dog has been able to duplicate her catches and bringing back the ball. Maggie, a black lab, did that the other week. Maggie even alternated with Sassie in catching the ball. They had a great time together.

Today Boomer, perhaps an Irish setter, also planted herself in the right spot to catch the high pop flies I toss to Sassy. Everyone had a big laugh with Boomer getting in the way, catching the ball, and running off with it. Sassie waited for her chance and tried again.

Children love to toss the ball to her and ask to pet her. One little girl did that for about 10 minutes when she suddenly said, "Sassy only has three legs!" Children often overlook the missing leg, but adults also watch her for a time without noticing.

Sassy watches out the window during the day and works me over emotionally about her trip to the dog park. She sits at my feet and mews. She looks sad. She comes into the garage with me and points at the car - her favorite thing. Cattle dogs are known for managing their owners.

Recently I took her along to the Bentonville Post Office. She knows a mail trip ends at the dog park. However, when I turned left for the post office, she looked at me like I was lost. The dog park is a right at the light. Everyone knows that. She was happy later, when we headed south for her favorite place to play.

She loves the orange ball, which is necessary but not sufficient for her fun. It must be the orange ball and the dog park.

If we go out to the back yard to toss her ball, she looks around and brings it back once. She makes it clear that playing catch in BV is not close to the fun of the dog park. It is only a sad reminder of what she is missing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Favicon Installed

Norma Boeckler designed this photo from one taken by Animal House Studios in Bella Vista, Arkansas.

Google Blogger has made it easy to install a favicon, a small image that appears in the browser window.

I used a photo taken by our granddaughter Josie, at the park in Glendale, Arizona.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Danielle Greets Sassy Sue by Name.
Squirrel Defies Baffle Again,
In Spite of Trimmed Bush

Sassy Sue and I had to do some banking, so we stopped at Dairy Queen. Danielle was there to give us a large vanilla cone and greet us. Danielle looked up this blog. I thought I mentioned her in the last post, but that was probably something I published on Facebook.

We went to DQ for Father's Day on Saturday. Danielle met most of our son's family and said to Martin, "I see your father three times a week." He said, "Dad!" as if I would feel guilty. Three is just when I see Danielle. Others are there at different times.

DQ is relatively low in carbs, and I avoid the candy extras, like those Blizzards (invented in my hometown of Moline).

Those Saucy Squirrels
It was bad enough to see the squirrel use my $15 baffle to rest his leg while eating from my squirrel-proof bird-feeder. He used the bush for his other leg. My solution was to trim the bush away, leaving him no access from the bottom.

The next time I saw him on the roof of the bird-feeder, hanging down and using the bar to open and close the feeder, shaking seeds into his greedy mouth.

My failures include:
1. The feeder itself, because he climbed up and held onto the pole with one arm while manipulating the bar with the other one.
2. The baffle, since he used it as a footstool to reach the feeder and shake seeds into his mouth.
3. The bush-trimming, which only forced him to land on top the feeder and hang down while using the bar to shake sunflower seeds loose.

Note this link I am putting on the permanent list. If you like watching God's Creation, the photos and stories are excellent.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Squirrel Baffle Update:
Spoiled Entitlement Squirrel Uses Baffle To Reach Food

Here is someone's video, showing how clever squirrels are.

I have been placing peanuts on the window sill, mostly for the squirrels, but also for any birds (like blue jays) that love them.

The new baffle from the hardware store was working well since Sunday - so I thought.

Today I watched a squirrel reach the squirrel-proof bird-feeder and eat from it, using the bush as one foot-rest and the bottom of the baffle as the other. He was a little unsteady but ate continuously and happily.

Some may remember that I faced this Olympic athlete before. I cut away all the bush props at the other feeder, because he reached up into it with his tiny paws. After losing the lower perch, he dangled down from above, his hind legs allowing him to clutch the bush while his front paws scooped seed from the bird-feeder.

Squirrel - Proof Friendly Feeder Raises Score to 11-0.
Squirrel Baffles Humans, Defeats Squirrel-Proof Feeder

For Father's Day last year I got a squirrel-proof bird feeder. We were all enchanted with the blue jays nesting in a bush outside the bedroom window, within eyesight of my computer desk. The squirrels are abundant, so I got the model illustrated above, with weight on the bar keeping the seed locked up.

Birds are so light that many can feed on that bar without lowering it and shutting off the food supply.

This worked well for an entire year. I fed the squirrels field corn and a new composite type of corn. When I bought a bag of peanuts in the shell, for snacks, I decided to share them on the window sill. I lift up the window, place some peanuts on the ledge, and watch them feed.

Recently two fed at once on the window sill. I thought they would fight, but instead, one groomed the other, chewing through the pal's fur. Suddenly they sat up and faced each other. Turf battle? The Sill-marillion? No, they touched paws and faces in a quick little friendship move. Grooming resumed after.

For Father's Day this year, the squirrel decided to defeat me again. He climbed the pole of the bird-feeder, held on with one arm, and pumped the bar to jiggle sunflower seed out into his mouth.

I had my wife come and watch the show. She said, "Time to take down the feeder!" I said, "No, this is entertaining. Besides, I can put a baffle on the pole."

Sassy Sue and I went to hardware store for a baffle. Duncraft sells a large one for about $30. I can imagine an ad saying, "Perfect for our formerly squirrel-proof feeders!"

Sassy went outside with me to install the bracket under the baffle. Unlike the photo above, our land is fairly level and Sassy's friends live next door. They love to have her walk over and greet them. I have to watch them, since Homer is a grouch who thinks Sassy is too peppy and loud. Sometimes he sits in the corner and looks disgusted. Once he bowled her over. Sassy watches for cues from me. I call her back after a few seconds of mutual greetings.

Sassy Sue is quite popular around town. At the dog park, children love to throw her ball and watch her snatch it out of the air, bringing it back. Very few dogs retrieve balls. I have not seen one that brings it back to the owner's hands.

More significantly, Sassy Sue astonishes the audience by jumping up with her three legs to get the ball. No one is surprised when she plants herself and catches the ball with a loud "Swak!" sound on the way down. But when she is running full speed away from me and grabs it before it hits the ground, everyone says, "How does she do that?" I am still impressed, after seeing it done many times.

One father was far away with several small children. Soon they were all behind me, watching the show. Next they were participating. More than one girl has said, "Sassy is a bossy dog!" I usually answer, "They gave her the right name." I have not heard a dog talking so much at the park. Sassy tells me to hurry up when we walk toward the gate. She barks loudly at her friends inside the park.

People see the loving nature of Sassy right away. She has a shy smile that invites petting, and she asks for more. She recently sat in my lap, put her paws around my neck, and hugged me. If she can involve two of us in petting her at the same time, that is perfect.

I happened to stop at Dairy Queen without Sassy in the back seat. The young woman gave me the cone I always share with the family and asked, "Where is Sassy Sue?"

Sassy's new duty includes watching for the fox in our yard. Our daughter-in-law first spotted it last year, but I thought that was just a chance sighting, an animal walking through. The fox must live in the wooded lot and prowl our yard a lot.

Sassy's perch is on top of my pillow, looking out the bedroom window that faces the wooded lot. This is where she keeps track of everything on our little street. Dogs and cats do not trouble her (except on TV) but that fox sends her into hunting mode.

I have seen the fox walking back into the woods, thanks to her alarms.

When I go to the kitchen, three dogs follow me, in case I am getting something they like. They love the sound of things being unwrapped. When I make a cheese sandwich, they expect some, lining up shoulder to shoulder.

I normally ask, "Would the Three Little Piggies like some cheese?"

They move forward one step, in unison. When I told this story in a sermon, Sassy's ears perked up.

Sassy Sue Vocabulary
I have lost track of how many sounds Sassy Sue can make. She has a German Shepherd vocabulary and all the strange vocal habits of the Cattle Dog, derived from the wild Dingo which is part of the breed's DNA.

She rarely warbles, but it is fun to hear. One night she saw her reflection in the bedroom window, since the inside light was on. She sat up and warbled, warning us about the dog in the window.

When I stop at the bank or post office, she sticks half her body out of the window and gives me a loud bark, once or twice. She grins at me and sits on my seat until I return. People find it comical when they see her in the driver's seat.

Last week I stopped at the vet's office to pick up medicine. Sassy's last trip earned her some shots. I left the window down. She stuck her body out and gave a long warbling warning cry. I understood. "No more shots!"

Friday, May 20, 2011

Disappearing Suet Rouses Our Dogs at 2 AM

I was asleep when all three dogs began carrying on. I heard odd noises around the window, where the birds feed and suet hangs. I just put new suet in the baskets. A third basket disappeared on the front side of the house, so I suspected a raccoon. Last year they put an end to the large bags of suet being hung outside, since each one lasted a day.

I keep a flashlight on the window sill, but I could not find the culprit at first. I waited until the burgling sounds started again. I shone the light at the window. The shameless raccoon faced into the light, a symbol of thievery and greed, his masked face limned with hunger. With my flashlight beam illuminating him, he reached up and effortless unhooked the basket holding the suet. It fell to the ground and he went down to finish it off.

We live in the woods, above a ravine, not too far from a creek. We enjoy seeing God's Creation at work around us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Donkey Poem, Reprise

The Donkey -

a poem by G.K. Chesterton

WHEN fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will,
Starve, scourge, deride me I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools, for I also had my hour,
One far fierce hour and sweet,
There was a shout about my ears
And palms before my feet.

From Norman Teigen

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mr. Squirrel Gets Artificial Corn

I was going to write about early spring feeding when the blizzard hit, 24 inches of snow in the Sunny South, Arkansas!

To keep my costs low and the suet available, I buy the little blocks of suet at Walmart for 90 cents each. They have prices that go up to $1.30 for each square, but those have delicacies in them, like blueberry chunks and seed blends. The lowest cost ones have a little bit of cheap seed, probably millet.

I loved the huge blocks of peanut-enhanced suet from Duncraft. Sassy Sue (the wonder dog) followed me around and licked them before I put them up. The last two were stolen in less than 24 hours, so I gave up on them. Previously, they attracted lots of birds, including bluebirds. I also give them credit for attracting the pileated woodpecker, which I saw twice.

My favorite view window now has two little baskets of suet on the left side, one hanging from the other. In the middle is the squirrel-proof feeder from Duncraft, full of sunflower seeds (about 50 cents a pound, Walmart). On the right side is a reconstituted corn cob on a squirrel feeder.

I bought the reconstituted corn on a whim. A bag of two cost $7, about the price of a bag of crumbling field corn cobs, while last only a few minutes on the feeder. I have two spiked feeders, so the package looked reasonable if they lasted.

Mr. Squirrel was not happy about the change from all-natural to Portland cement. There were some initial tastes but not much action. After about a month, the tasting turned to feeding. My wife asked, "What is that gnawing sound?" Mr. Squirrel was chewing the corn away, slowly. I figured it was good for his teeth. So far both corns have lasted a long time and served the tree rodents well.

Before the corn diet started, Mr. Squirrel used the suet basket as his personal ice cream cone. The weather was still quite wintery. To get some extra calories, he held one basket in his paws and licked it for a long time. Yesterday I found him on his back, licking the basket from the bottom. How did he keep his balance? He hooked one hind paw into the screen, which made him quite secure.

Suet is very popular and thrifty for pleasing a lot of birds, not to mention squirrels and raccoons. We have birds feeding on the suet all day long, and a 90 cent block lasts around one month. Many species eat suet. We see a few starlings, various woodpeckers, and bluebirds.

I was looking into mealworms for bluebirds, whether live or fried or cooked into suet. Duncraft has confused mealworms with caviar, charging the same price for them. A container of live mealworms is around $40. When I dye my hair blue and go to Paris every spring, I will spend that much on worms. Until then, no dice.

We no longer have four male cardinals feeding at the same time, as they did during the last blizzard. But we are seeing a male and a female around the feeder. Cardinals are claiming their territory by singing. That is one of the benefits of God's Creation. The males claim territory with their beautiful songs, which translate into English as, "This is my yard. This is my mate. Come close and I will fight you off."

The male cardinal will feed the female from the sunflowers as part of the mating ritual. It is quite a sight.

The variety of birds is improving as they get used to a steady supply of dry, fresh sunflower seeds. The bird seed companies charge far too much for millet, which is either wasted or eaten up fast as a junk food. Black oil sunflower seeds need to be cracked open.

The cardinals open the seeds by chewing with their powerful beaks, so the birds stay on the perch and eat, with a droll expression on their faces. Chickadees and other small birds need to peck the seed open, so they usually carry the seed to a branch, hold it in their claws, and hammer down with their beaks to open and eat.

Sassy Sue always go out to feed the birds with me. She usually plays tag with the neighbor's dogs, but yesterday he went over to greet another neighbor. She is so friendly and smiley that everyone loves to see her and pet her.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Iced Orange Water - A Refreshing Treat

Orange blossoms create a beautiful perfume wherever they grow.

All sugared sodas are little more than corn syrup plus water, flavor, and bubbles. Obese children can probably thank their parents for getting them used to lots of soda, which turns to instant fat and really spikes hunger pangs. Popcorn is similar, adding fat to the mix.

Diet soda is not an  answer to sugared soda, since it loaded with questionable stuff to make it seem sweet. Many argue that artificial sweeteners are worse than corn syrup. I love the taste of diet A and W root beer, but I find it oddly un-refreshing, no matter how much I drink. Diet soda is not on my list.

Years ago, I drank enough Coca Cola to make withdrawal difficult. I began de-tox with orange juice, which was also another big slug of sugared water. Dieticians frown on orange juice.

I discovered that the best and most refreshing drink consisted of orange slices in iced water. I cut half an orange into little pieces, which can be eaten later. The orange bits add flavor and a slightly sweet taste to the water. Mrs. Ichabod and I both love this drink.

Lemons are good, but their staying power in water is not impressive. They get an odd taste after a few hours, unlike oranges. Limes have great flavor, but they are often rather dry and hard. Lemons and limes seem to shrink to pebbles in the fridge, at an alarming rate. I like lemons and limes in theory but not in practice.

At a restaurant, the waitress will bring lemon or lime ice water for free. Lemonade costs about $2. I said at the last gathering of Team Jackson, "I ordered de-sugared lemonade." To be frank, once sugared drinks are removed the diet, they seem odious and disgusting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mr. Squirrel Leaves a Message

A thank you note would have been better.

I have mentioned how birds remind me to feed them. They show up to chirp at me when I am near the garage door. They come inside to look for food on the garage floor. They even fly over to the cupboards to see if I left the doors open again. The squirrel cleaned me out last year when I did that. I came home to a cupboard full of sunflower seed hulls. He probably invited the whole clan to help.

I keep some corn out for the squirrels most of the time, so one of them left a message recently. I was working around the house and in the driveway. When I came back to the garage, there was an empty cob just in front of the garage door opening, where I could not miss it.

Mr. Squirrel could have said hello from a branch, as the birds do. He could have waved a greedy paw, the one he used to scoop out all the seed from the bird feeder. Leaving an empty cob was a tacit accusation of neglect. That was cold.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ichabod asked about the yellow cardinals. I looked, when snow was still falling, and there were goldfinches already changing color. They love sunflower seeds, so they are regular, persistent feeders.

Many people buy African thistle just for the finches, and I can see why. However, the squirrels like to empty seed socks without eating the food. Anyone can get into the equivalent of the arms race dealing with this. The answer is to buy armored feeders that will allow finches to feed while repelling clever squirrels.

That also means spending even more on thistle seed, which must be made out of gold, considering its price. It is a rank weed, so the seeds are sterilized before being sold, lest they spread through America and kill their business.

Sunflower seeds and suet will fill almost all needs. The squirrels even come over to suet and treat the wire cage as a Dairy Queen cone. Suet and sunflower seeds cost only pennies a week.

More shelter will attract additional birds, but not everyone can live on the edge of a forested ravine. Dripping water will encourage birds and other animals to stop by for a drink and a bath. My best dripper was a large darkroom chemical bottle. One end made it easy to hang from a tree. The valve could be opened so that one drop came out every few minutes. It is that high-pitched dripping that attracts the animals.

When I had a rock waterfall on my pool in Phoenix, geese flying overhead craned their necks to see the source of the water. I thought, "Great. Now they will stop next year and plaster the pool with droppings."

Spring has arrived in Arkansas. I have already started sowing sunflower seeds for the summer crop. I simply toss the black oil sunflower seeds where they have a chance of taking root before being eaten. One little garden area is fallow - meaning I did not feel like digging it up. Covered with decaying leaves, it is ideal for a sunflower garden. I am ordering giant striped sunflower seeds for that garden and some other places.

I buy from seed supply houses because the drugstores and hardware stores sell colorful packets for too much money. They also think I want morning glories for a cheap hippy high. Morning glory seeds are not sold retail in Arizona, while tons of drugs march across the border each day, on the backs of illegal immigrants.

Sunflower seeds can be planted as a fort with sunflower walls, around play equipment, for children and grandchildren. Children like to hide among the growing plants.

Sunflowers are impressive at nine feet tall, with huge disks forming. A squirrel will ride the flower and eat it before the seeds form, then come back and harvest the finished seed-heads.

Another fun project is to have a striped Russian sunflower contest, to see who grows the tallest or the biggest disk. The key to optimal growth is plenty of water and a foundation of manure or compost. Sunflowers are heavy feeders (like corn) and thrive when given all the food they want. They droop as soon as the water level is too low for them; it is surprising how demanding they are.

Meanwhile various creatures enjoy the growing sunflower. Spiders locate there and trap insects. Grasshoppers will land and chew on some leaves, unable to keep up with the growth. It must be an insect's dream come true, to land on food that never stops growing, compensation for a short life. Birds love to see their food moving around on a tall object, too. A Russian sunflower soon creates enough strength to support birds looking for food on the plant or nearby.

My mother was quite an expert on insects. She pointed out to all the phobics that almost all insects are beneficial. They balance each other, as God planned. A lot of pest insects will attract and feed a preying mantis. Cottony maple scale is the perfect food for lady bugs (named after the Virgin Mary). Scale insects landed on a maple tree once and soon lady bugs were all over them.

Ants are the morticians of the insect world, collecting the departed and taking them home for a memorial feast.

Wasps are sadistic, planting their eggs in insect larvae, only to have them hatch in the midst of fresh, moist food.

Sowbugs and pillbugs live in decaying vegetation, hating sunlight. Starlings will march along, with their comical gait, flip over a leaf, and have a meal. And yet people call starlings a pest bird. Few birds are smarter or more active in eating weed seeds and insects.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Continuous Snow and Bird-Feeding:
Ten Inches of Snow Shutting Down Bella Vista.
Snow Plows Called Back

Inside Looking Out, by Norma Boeckler

Yesterday we knew a storm was coming to our area, so we went to the Walmart in Jane, Missouri, across the line, for supplies. We bought another 25 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds and three more suet cakes, plus two bags of salt. We heard the main store in town, across from WM headquarters, was sold out of salt.

Sassy Sue and I filled the main bird feeder and refilled two suet feeders. A 92 cent suet cake lasts a month or so. The $13 bag of sunflower seed lasted several months.

We also filled the squirrel feeder and spread seed around the area near the front door. The deep chill was descending, and almost no birds stopped at the feeder the rest of the day.

We awoke to at least five inches of snow on the ground, and snowfall so dense we could not see past the yard. The birds were lined up like Packer fans who just heard season tickets were on sale. We never had so many feeding at once: about four male cardinals, three females, house finches, chickadees, sparrows, and woodpeckers. The woodpeckers always favor the suet, while chickadees will eat both foods. The bushes and sills were loaded with birds eating or waiting for some food.

A squirrel finished the corn immediately.

Suddenly all the birds flew away, not from anything I did. A blue jay sounded in the distance. I have heard of them scattering the birds from a feeder. I did not see him appear, but they have nested in that spot. The jays may have landed on the ground after they cleared the area. I have seen them picking up corn from the ground and eating it in the safety of the tree branches.

I looked at the area in front of the garage where I normally scatter some sunflower seeds. Bird tracks told me that my dependents were there, wondering about my generosity. I left a large amount before the snowfall yesterday. I thought, "If they don't come into the garage to remind me, they leave a message in the snow." So I cleared an area and gave them more.

The area around the front door was also alive with birds and a squirrel. They all feed together well. Fresh suet attracted a woodpecker there, too.

When people express astonishment at bird-feeding and watering, I share my surprise that they do not enjoy this inexpensive and edifying hobby. I spend about $2 a month on food by sticking to sunflower seeds and suet. Corn is extravagant but our grandson wanted it on the feeder again, so I was happy to indulge the tree rats. About $14 covers the winter corn supplies; after that, they are on their own. No more bail-outs.

Sassy enjoys bird feeding because it gives her a chance to charge the bushes and flush out some game. Snow has become boring to her. She wants to return to the dog park. Today even the snow plows were recalled from Little Switzerland - too dangerous for them to operate.

Bird-feeding in winter makes a difference, because they need more calories to stay warm and their normal food supplies are harder to reach. I read that our feeding is only 15% of their diet, so they depend on the Creator rather than us.

One reader buys grain and uses that. Any seed-bearing plant is also going to be enjoyed by most birds. They like bushes and the stalks of dead plants for perching while they look for food. My mother once asked, looking at the winter garden, with sunflower stalks still standing above the snow, "Why did you leave those up?" I said, "Two reasons. One is the birds love to perch there for preening and searching for food. Secondly, the plants rot into the soil and feed the worms all winter." She loved feeding the birds and photographing them, so that made sense.

We fed so many birds in Arizona that we scared a number of workmen. When they went outside, the white-winged dove population took off at once. They have a way of cheeping and noisily beating their wings. More than one man jumped back in shock at the commotion, especially when rounding the corner of the yard. The visual shock of 50 birds launching, combined with drumming wings and alarmed cheeping, did them in.

One reward was seeing them stacked up together, after a very cold night, like little toys, along the bay window. Rows and rows of them were tucked into the window ledges, several deep until the sun warmed them.
Hell, Michigan

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sassy Sue Does the Superbowl

Sassy Sue would make an ideal mascot for the Green Bay Packers. Her owners should get season tickets for sharing her.

Just before the bad weather we were enjoying 60 degree days at the dog park. One day featured about 15 dogs and their owners, a mix of people who knew Sassy and strangers. I enjoy hearing the gasps as Sassy catches the ball running away from me, brings it back, and drops it in my hand. She enjoys having an audience and does especially well when everyone comments.

No one can figure how she snags a ball out of the air when she is running away from me. Part of it is guessing from my arm movement, but she can catch about 90% of the tosses. The throws pass over her back as she runs, and she reaches them just in time.

Lately she has been supervising my show-shoveling. I had four days in a row of shoveling, quite rare here. Yesterday it got so tedious for her that she stopped hunting for animals in the snow and sat down to watch from the garage.

She shared kettle corn with us on the bed, along with Precious and Treasure. She stayed for the game and the Shelties took naps.

Sassy is now in charge of watching out of one window. She listens for anything on the circle and raises various levels of alarms, from guttural growls to "They've come to kill us all!" She is especially loud for UPS trucks, because they are clearly trying to break in the front door when they ring the bell. That gets the Shelties barking, their eyes popping with urgency.

My Home Town Area Gave President Reagan His First Job

Reagan came back as president to post at the WOC mike and broadcast.
Dave Coopman wrote about this event in his book on WOC Radio.

Dutch Reagan was born not too far from Moline - Tampico, Illinois, only 45 miles away. On this day, 100 years ago, it was also snowing furiously.

Reagan grew up in Dixon, Illinois and graduated from Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, 1932.

WOC Radio, started by the Palmer (School of Chiropractic) family, hired him as an announcer. We take radio for granted now, but the Palmers were pioneers in introducing radio to the area.

Facebook is the technological rage now, and Moline High graduate John Getz plays the lawyer in the new movie about Facebook.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sassy Sue Feeds the Birds

Norma Boeckler created this male cardinal picture, which is just what they look like outside my window.

We are in the middle of the Sno-pocalypse. At dawn we had almost nothing on the ground. A few hours later we had inches on the ground, more falling, and the roads closed. The state highway may be open, but we cannot see it through the snow.

Nevertheless, Sassy Sue and I went out to feed the birds. She was moping, because she loves going out about this time every day. Sassy pranced through the snow and chased some birds out of the bushes. By the time we were done, she was beaming, with snow on her face and back.

Snow and sleet bring out the birds, especially if they have long-term feeding stations. The blue jays were screeching near the backyard squirrel feeder, so I put another ear of corn on the spike. Some corn was left, which told me the squirrels slept in rather than brave the storm. Blue jays like the corn kernels and treat them as nuts, pecking at them while held in their claws.

Sassy and I took sunflower seeds and loose corn to the area under the front porch. Later, plenty of birds were eating from the planter-feeder and also among the rocks.

Near the window, where I work, the cardinals, titmice, and woodpeckers were feeding. Yesterday I filled up the Duncraft feeder and put in another block of suet. The basket lasted about three months, so it is the least expensive feeder. Suet baskets are also handy for those who go away on trips. The suet keeps a number of birds coming at all times. Birds, like people, enjoy plenty of company and stay wary of new or quiet feeding areas.

The ear of corn was eaten to the cob, so Sassy and I replaced it. We also scattered extra seed around the ground and behind the bushes. Birds can navigate the sides of the house with ease, so I often see them around the windows, clinging to the wood with the claws. I wonder if they are looking in to thank me or to remind me.

By coincidence, a small bird came into the garage while I was getting out seed. I had already done some feeding at that point, but neglected the snow covered spot near the garage door. I swept an area clear and put down some fresh seed. It never lasts long.

I noticed before the storm how much bird singing we hear now. One reason for singing is the male bird establishing his territory, but it is still early for that. Male cardinals are feeding together, not competing for females yet. Birds are naturally cheerful and make us feel happy with them. They have no savings, no retirement. Few of them store food, so they start the day hungry but optimistic, singing Matins, praising the Creator.

Everyone knows Sassy at the dog park. She is famous for retrieving and for catching high pop flyballs.
She loves the applause and the praise.