Tuesday, March 27, 2012

They're Baaacckk!

photo credit: Dan Kaiser

My little 'flying cigars' , Chimney Swifts are back.
I heard the first twittering of the season in my chimney just last night.
These birds twittered before twittering was cool.
Speaking of cool, Chimney Swifts eat more than a 1,000 mosquitoes sized insects a day.

Cornell University's ornithology department has an amazing website for bird lovers.
If you want to know more about my little summer visitors or any other bird, here's the link.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six Dreaded Words

"There's a hummingbird in the garage."

Why does a hummingbird in my garage bring me dread?

Because it means I'm going to get hurt.
Because a cuss word or two might sneak out of an otherwise cuss-less vocabulary.
Because I'm going to get hot and sweaty.

Why is there a hummingbird in my garage in the first place?
There are certainly no flowers.
The red widget you see pictured below is the reason.
It's the release handle for the garage door opener.
The government mandates that it must be red, for reasons unknown to me.
What I do know is, the hummingbirds think it might contain food.

But again, why is the hummingbird stuck in my garage?
You'd think if I put the all the garage doors up and opened the windows, that he'd be on his merry way once he realized the handle was not a flower.

No can do.
Hummingbirds natural instinct to escape danger is to fly up.
What is "up" in a garage?
The ceiling.
A white ceiling.
"Down" seems to be beyond these little fireball birds.

Here's where the pain and cussing and hot/sweaty part comes in.
Since I love birds, I endeavor to help poor Mr. Hummingbird get out of my garage.

I get the pole and net setup we have to clean our pool.
I then begin crashing around the garage, tripping over everything in my way, bumping into vehicles; all the while trying to capture (but not crush) Mr. Hummingbird.
Our garage faces west.
The spring and summer sun shines right in, making both bird and bird rescuer overheat very quickly.

Yesterday, was the first "There's a hummingbird in the garage" of the season.

Garage door release

It ended happily.
Mr. Black-Chinned Hummingbird finally petered out. Poor little thing came hovering slowly to the ground like a tiny helicopter.
I scooped him up gently and brought him in the house.

photos by Pearl

Above, you see what makes it possible for the bird to be released within a matter of minutes.

I fill a liquid medicine dispenser with hummingbird nectar (1 part sugar to 4 parts water).
I gently slip the end over his tiny beak and he begins feeding right away.
Smart bird!

That's not the end of my story.
I've decided to make a hummingbird capture net.
In all the years I've rescued the poor birds in my garage, I've never actually caught one in the net. It's not built for catching anything but leaves off the bottom of my pool.
What always ends up happening is I outlast the hummingbird. The bird always gets worn out and comes to the ground.
It's so sad and stressful for the bird, not to mention hard on my shins from banging into things.

I hearby declare the Hummingbird Rescue Net my idea.
Will folks buy it?
You bet your sweet pocketbook they will.
SSsshhh, don't tell Lee I'm one of those Americans. :)

Until then, I've decided to buck the government and pull the release handles to the garage door openers up, and out of sight. Better yet, I could close my garage doors.
Necessity is indeed, the mother of invention.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Office Assistant and the Scientific Method

Hobbes and I have "Observed" that our Live Oak trees often have several different thicknesses of bark on one tree trunk.

Our "Hypothesis" is that the bark is thicker on the side of the trunk that holds the majority of the load of the tree.
In other words, the bark is thicker (wider) on the side with the heaviest branches.

Hobbes conducting an "Experiment" regarding the different thicknesses of bark on a single tree.
I question the validity of this experiment, as I don't know that the flavor of the bark has anything in common with our hypothesis.
He disagrees.

Photographic evidence regarding the thickness/wideness of the bark on the trunk.
Notice the angle of the tree.
The load on the tree is the heaviest to the left side of the picture.

Closer inspection reveals just how wide the bark is on the left vs. the right side of the tree trunk.

Hobbes "Analysis" of the small bit of data we collected seems to be enough.
He reminds me that he's an Office Assistant and not a Lab Assistant.
He also reminds me that it's time for his bath break.

I, however, am not satisfied with the amount of data we collected.
I think the internet is the next place I'll search for data regarding our hypothesis.
The only thing I've found thus far is data regarding the actual thickness of the bark horizonally (outside to the inside) and its relationship to the height/age of a tree.

Therefore, the hypothesis remains until further information can be gathered. At that point, the hypothesis may change.

Maybe Hobbes will be done with his bath by then.
Or not.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Setting Up Housekeeping

Not sure who the new neighbor is yet.
No one was home when I went by last night.
Looks like they're moving in a little at a time.
Wonder if they have any kids?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Can't Even Donate Them

I'm doing a bit of spring cleaning.
I'm hosting a baby shower this weekend, so that's my push to get started.
One thing I try to do every year is purge my bookshelves of books I'll never read again and magazines I've amassed over the past year.

However, there is one magazine that I cannot even donate.
One magazine that I cannot part with, even if I never read it again.
National Geographic.

But why?
Why can't I let loose of them?
Goodness knows there are plenty of doctors and dentists offices that are in need of some quality reading material.
The nursing home here in town would probably like them.
So would my local library.

I just can't.
They are so perfectly done.
So thorough.
So beautiful.

I learn so many new things with every single issue.
Sometimes I learn things I didn't want to know about.
Some things make my skin crawl and my heart ache.
Some things make me angry.
Some things make me smile for hours.
Overall, it makes me realize the world is bigger and the issues are bigger than little Dripping Springs, Texas.

I could save myself some shelf space and order their new CD set of 112 years of the magazine.
If I did, I'd never leave my office chair for sitting and reading.
Plus, I'm one of those weirdos that wants to hold my reading material.
I don't have a Kindle for that very reason.
I love books.
I love National Geographic magazine, too.

So, this morning, a years worth of Good Housekeeping, Time, Fortune, Inc., Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, and a few others, went to recycling.

Are there magazines that you just can't part with?
More to the point, do you know why?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vegetarian or Omnivore?

I've been seeing advertisements on the TV for "Eggs that come from chickens fed with all vegetarian feed..."

The first thing that comes to mind is, why?
Chickens aren't vegetarians.
I have photographic proof.

"Whatcha doing down there all by yourself, June?"

"It's not a snake is it?"

"Ah, you've found a lizard."

"Oh, a snack, huh?" "I'll be quiet. I won't tell the other girls."

"That's it, shake it. Maybe that leg will come off."

The area of food labeling has become grayer and grayer.
What does it mean when something is Organic?
How about "Pastured" or "All Natural"?
"Free Range" or "Certified Humane"?

Those labels sound good, don't they?
In the case of eggs, you'd assume those hens are living the high life.
They might as well be eggs that come from a backyard farmer, only you know some officially titled person has looked over the eggs before they show up in your grocery store.

Those labels can add one, two or three dollars to the price of a dozen eggs in the grocery store. If they happen to be brown eggs, you can bump that price even more.

By the way, brown eggs are NO different than white eggs.
Shell color has to do with the breed of chicken that laid the egg.

If you buy those fancy eggs at the grocery store because you feel like they are more humane for the hens that lay the eggs, unfortunately, it's all just marketing.

If you want eggs from hens that have lived a barn-yard sort of life, try your local farmers market. The egg will taste amazing, be very fresh, and you'll know where it came from.