Note the Tail

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Our household has grown. Nancy is as nervous as a new mother. We have five of these: three that look (more or less) alike, and two yellow ones, one (the tiniest one) with black legs and feet. At the time this photograph was taken, I think the creature represented was about a week and a half old: old enough to have grown sufficient wing feathers to fly three or four feet, and to grow that adorable little fluff of a tail.

This particular chick is the most aggressive of the five, which makes us suspect this may be an infant rooster.  I have no idea how to sex a chick. In fact, I identify adult male chickens by their tail feathers and overall demeanor. If they strut around the hen yard, crowing and now and then, I assume they are male. this little gem has his photograph in this blog because he ventured the closest to me.

Photographer’s note: even at that, I shot 59 pictures of the chicks within a fifteen minute time span, and discarded 47 of them. These little bits zip around like miniature hummingbirds.

What happened was Lorp (our Astralorp) went broody. For those not familiar with chickens, this means she began laying her eggs in out of the way places and then sitting on them. Her all around queen-of-the-hen-yard demeanor changes so radically  the other hens began to pick on her and harass her (because chickens are very much like little groups of junior high students.) We have had hens go broody before, but recently we suffered a tragic loss when Large, our bigger barred rock, became ill and died, so we were down a hen anyway. So this time when a hen went broody, Nancy felt sorry for her. We have no rooster, so she could sit on her eggs as long as she needed to, but nothing was going to happen.

So Nancy went on Amazon and bought 6 fertilized eggs from a chicken farmer in Georgia. By breed, they are identified as “hen yard mix’, which means…they’re a random collection of whatever lives and reproduces in a certain hen yard in Georgia. They came in a modified egg crate wrapped in a box with a LIVE ANIMALS label on the outside. We bought 6, but received 8, just in case. In the meantime the other hens had begun laying their eggs in Lorp’s nest, so we had a plethora of eggs, some hatchable, some not.

We ended up separating Lorp and her clutch from the other hens (there are two, a Rhode Island Red and a barred rock) because hen yard bullying was going on.

We run an anti-bully coop.

So we put Lorp and her clutch in an over-sized dog crate, and Nancy waited. Two eggs broke.  And then one day (right down to the day this should have happened, incidentally) some pecking occurred, and small, fuzzy chicks emerged.  It took us a while to determine exactly how many we had, because they burrowed in under their mom, but in the end we had five.

I have a cute photograph of all five and mom on my phone, but my phone does nothing all day but call me about an apparently endless supply of medical supply hucksters who know I am experiencing pain somewhere, and desperately wish to send me knee braces, back braces, shoulder braces and pain cream–all to be generously paid for by Medicare. That, or there is an active warrant already issued for my arrest and I should call back immediately, or, my favorite–the warranty on my car has expired and I should call immediately to have it renewed. Or–while there is no problem with my immediate credit card–there is this wonderful offer floating out there in the ether designed for me and me alone… The battery died.

Ordinarily I don’t care, because I rarely call anyone and people rarely call me. Yesterday I needed to talk to an appliance repairman because our oven said, ‘screw you’ and locked itself and we can’t get it to unlock (why would that even be a feature on an oven?); also, my roof leaks and it’s been raining and although I no longer believe this leak is fixable, I keep calling roofing people to complain, and I hope they will call me back to sympathize. Which means I had to leave the phone on. Which means I received 37 phone calls yesterday, three of which I actually wanted. So, in a side note: as a communication tool, my phone has been rendered virtually useless. I have two solutions that sort of/kind of work: I turn off the ringer, or I turn off the phone. So 37 different people with pronounced Indian accents named “Derek” or “James’ no longer to call to commiserate with me over my pain, but then again…no one can call me.

Which is why we have chicks in the back yard. We go outside, sit in lawn chairs, and watch them dart about and dust bathe. They discover blades of grass, which they promptly bite, and every now and then Lorp sounds the alarm and all five of them come running like they were retracted by a stretched rubber band. Two of the chicks dust bathe with their mother, but they dust bathe underneath her, so while she is rolling around and fluffing her feathers in the dirt, they are struggling to get upright again and breathe real air.

They’re cute. They’re adorable. And they don’t try to sell me medical supplies.

 

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Annie’s New Job

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Annie has a new job.

Every morning she and Nancy wake up, Nancy releases her from her sleeping crate and they go outside. Nancy tends to the chickens while Annie races up to the north fence to warn the chows to stay in their own yard, then back to the back fence to issue the same warning to Stella, who lives behind us. She then anoints the lawn with sacred dog fluids and waste, and she and Nancy and Riley all come inside for breakfast.

Breakfast for Riley is a slow and thoughtful process. Breakfast for Annie is about a thirty second delay in her appraisal of all potential dangers to our house.

And then it happens. She trots into the bedroom, and there is Cheryl. Still in bed. Sound asleep.

Sometimes Cheryl wakes to the sense of a small bundle of nervous energy hovering at the side of the bed, and she hangs out one hand for a sound licking.

In the beginning, this was enough, but the lions and tigers and bears have multiplied. There is Cheryl, innocently sleeping away, while charging rhinos and savage wild dogs could come flying in through the windows at any moment.

And so–with no small sacrifice to herself, it should be noted–Annie now hurls herself onto the bed, wallows over Cheryl and cuddles in next to her, occasionally issuing low but very powerful growls to anything that might challenge her charge.

It is her job.

She is responsible for safety and well-being of every breathing form in the house (although whether this actually includes the cat or not is open to some question: the cat is surly and more than capable of deterring the odd charging rhino and besides, she is not in the least bit grateful for all of the good work done in her behalf.)

So Cheryl woke this morning to a small grrrring companion warning off all sorts of evil by her side.

And Cheryl smiled, and went back to sleep.

 

 

 

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Greetings

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I put a variation of this shot in my last photography show, but then, so few of you would know that.  (She smiles.) I am attempting (not all that successfully) to practice humility because I just finished a book I really disliked, and it is abundantly clear the author is very proud of it. As I am of my own work. I know the feeling. And having read his book, I also understand that pride in our accomplishments is a wonderful thing, but it will not guarantee the curmudgeon down the street will appreciate it.

I am indulging in this minor conflict because all of the books I purchase and read on Kindle are somehow linked to Good Reads, and I imagine, in my own self-confident way, that future readers of this book are hovering about, waiting for me to post my opinion of it.

I hated it. I would have liked it more had the main character–who spent more time describing his personal wardrobe than he did solving mysteries and who was devoted to a dog that does….as far as I can tell…absolutely nothing to advance the plot–if he had been gay, simply because I’m like that, but no–this man is straight. This clothes horse who dissed rock stars I admired, actors I admired, and books I admired (he’s a genius ex-writer who set the literary world on its ears and then went into writer’s block,) who is a snob and does everything but climb telephone poles at the sight of a spider, is straight. And, to hear him tell it, eye candy for every straight women who sees him.

So today–this afternoon–you could tell me my photographs suck and I would say nothing worse to you than I have already said to this *%^%^&(*&  fly that is going to DIE if he lands on me one more time…

I hate flies.

I hate their persistence.

So this is what I did today, because I have a blog and a fly.

I went to my diabetes prevention class and was weighed and learned that I have lost 60 pounds (total, not all in the class) and four inches off my waist. I have been attempting to pursue a healthier lifestyle by eating foods that are better for me, exercising, and batting relentlessly at fast-moving flies.

And then I jumped into my car and drove off in pursuit of butterflies and dragonflies.

Today I saw a mourning cloak.

Buterflies, dragons 038.cjpg This is a mourning cloak, balancing on a rock. As far as I know I have never actually seen one in person before.

I also found this:

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He’s doing a handstand.

This is what I do when I’m not writing.  Take pictures of bugs, try to avoid the Dairy Queen, and swat at flies.

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Animal Update

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This is not a fantastic shot and I don’t know the name of the dragonfly represented. They have two qualities  photographers appreciate: they’re big, and they’re dark. When I am driving slowly along the roadside, they dart up into the air and them swoop back down into the weeds, and sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether that burst of activity was a small bird or a big dragonfly.

It is a beautiful day today. It’s just barely seventy, with a light wind and full sun. The six-inch forest may be six inches deep, but it is probably thirty feet tall by now and it shades my window nicely. Someone somewhere in the neighborhood is running some sort of lawn maintenance machine. There is the faint rhythm of people talking, too far away to distinguish recognizable words. People drive by the house on motorcycles. Nancy has the bed sheets hanging on the lines int he back yard to dry.

Annie is older now. She has weathered six of her seven years warning Nancy and me of the dangers in our neighborhood, only to be chastised for her  diligence, so she is ever-aware, but less likely to file formal reports these days. We will find her under the window in the living room, where she chuffs and growls low in her throat. Get away from my women, she warns the evil that lurks beyond the house walls. They may not be able to see you, but I can! 

Right now the dogs are both in the house and the chickens (all four) are roaming the backyard. This has not escaped the attention of the cat, who has spent in inordinate amount of time this afternoon sitting twitching in the Conservatory window.

Bennie and I walk carefully around each other, these days. The dispute began when Nancy and I drained the water-bed and installed a regulation hard bed. Our hard bed is a pillow-top with built-in trenches where we sleep. One day Bennie happened to stroll into the bed room and found, much to her surprise, and very large and accommodating cat bed in the middle of the room. She jumped upon it. She curled up in a ball. She accidentally began to purr. I like this very much, she thought to herself. Good humans.

The problem occurs at night, when the good humans decide to use the cat bed for themselves. First Nancy goes to bed. This is fine: this leaves  half the bed for Bennie. Then I come to bed. Over time I have been trained to sweep the bed for small furry bodies (at first I flung the blankets back, sending her sprawling.) Once I’ve found her, I do my very best to gently but firmly r-o-l-l her over onto Nancy’s side of the bed so I can get in.

I have yet to do this successfully.

I r-o-l-l the cat over, gently, assuring her as she rolls that she’s okay, she’s fine, that she can sleep right on top of me if she likes as soon as I’m settled… No matter how I do it, there is an angry swish of the tail and she jumps up, jumps off the bed and huffs out of the room.

I am not to know that an hour later she come back, settled firmly on my chest with one toe poised directly above my heart, should I be foolish enough to try to start that rolling thing again.

Unlike Babycakes, who demanded nightly lap time, Bennie choose to remain aloof and difficult to predict, but she has eventually learned that at least some sort of warning works much better when she decides to bless me with her presence. The first time she just bolted off the floor and then dug in to hang on, we nearly both bled. Still, she takes naps on my chest from time to time. I am not her person of choice, but I have been well-trained. I sit very still and make no attempts to re-situate myself, or, God forbid, her.

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Yes, I get into my care and I drive around the countryside, looking for quiet back roads and places where dragonflies might hang. I roll down the car window, hang out, and try to catch amazing shots of them poised on leaves. Where, you might politely inquire, did I find this one?

Attached to the frame of our back door. Not only that, he stayed there long enough for me to go get a camera, come back, and shoot fifteen shots of him.

And then he left and I have never seen him since.

He was big.

If the area immediately around our back door were better lit, I might have a much better idea what kind of dragonfly he is, but that would be greedy of me, expecting everything to be exactly the way I want it.

You take what you can get.

 

 

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It Stopped

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The rain stopped. Minutes ago: it was raining, and then…it stopped.

I have nothing personally against rain–I love to sleep to the steady rhythm of falling water–but this morning’s deluge seemed like it might last forever. And it’s cold. I have nothing against the cold, for that matter, but this recent flopping back and forth between 95 degree weather and 60 degree weather is a little dizzying.

You see at the top my current photographic subjects. That specific dragonfly has a name, which as I remember is kind of cute, but the book is all the way across the room…. Ah, yes, I remember now. I have a book, Dragonflies of the North Woods, by Kurt Mead, which identifies dragonflies by photograph, sometimes close-ups, descriptions, comparison, the dates during which they are active and the parts of the north woods where I might find one. This seemed useful when I ordered it. There are roughly 20 big green dragonflies featured, identified by singular body parts (the tails are apparently significant) the patterns of their stripes, etc. The entire dragonfly is about two to two and a half inches long, and they’re wild. I have never had one fly into my hand and say,  “Okay, now look closely at my tail,” or “you’ll notice the stripes on my abdomen are different from that annoying wannabe over there.” Even more fun, when we get into the smaller dragonflies that proliferate later in the summer, Mr. Mead counsels that some are only distinguishable from each other when dead and carefully examined under a microscope in a lab.

My lab is full of spiral notebook making materials right now.

I am easily distracted by butterflies, which are hard enough to tell apart.

Anyway. The dragonfly above may or may not be a green darner (I like the name, but, probably not) or a spiketail. He’s probably not a clubtail because…yes, he has no clubbed tail.

What is it you find so fascinating about big green dragonflies, you might well ask, and the answer is that of a photographer: there are a great many of them right now, they hang out on the roadside, they land on a leaf or a stem and they stay there.   Not forever, of course: long enough for me to fiddle around with my slightly-abused lens and my slow-focusing eyes and get a decent, clear shot. And–bonus–when a dragonfly flies away, as often as not s/he circles around and comes right back to where s/he was before s/he left! This is a true boom to a photographer who often shoots out of a car window. The Escape was not really built to chase dragonflies.

Ah, but you might well say, butterflies are so much prettier.

Yes, they are. Right now they seem to be boycotting the places where I usually find them.

They’re also flighty, anti-social, and ADD. You can get dizzy just watching a butterfly, waiting for it to decide where it’s going and make up its mind to land. And once they fly away, they may cover an amazing amount of territory in a very small space (they are extraordinarily fond of flying in spirals and back loops) but they come back to where they started in about one of every one hundred flights.

 

Butterflies are like deer: you might just as well sit there and look at it for as long as you can, because you are never going to get the camera up, aimed and focused in time to shoot anything but the last place you saw your fleeing subject.

The rain has resumed. It spits and stalls, but the sky is still half-dark and the breeze blowing in through the window is cold. And I would close the window, but the weather changes so fast in Michigan it seems almost like tempting fate.

Dear Weather God:

Okay, I may have whined and moaned, but I really do like 100 degree weather. At least I do when it’s sixty outside. On the other hand, please don’t take this to mean you should change it in the next six minutes. Those big twirly things you do with the wind are really not fun for us down here.

In fact–just do whatever you were going to do. Forget I said anything. Nothing personal, but you’ve been a bit testy, lately.

I’ll just quietly back away now…

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And She’s Back…

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It has been a while since I posted a blog. I started the year with bold ambitions and then promptly caught the flu which lead to complications which complicated other conditions… No one wants to read about my bodily conflicts. The final result is some weight loss, a more attentive attitude toward what I put in my mouth (and everything below that) and I have rejoined the gym. I walk and do my leg (actually, lower back) exercises in the pool. I don’t do arm exercises yet because I am at war with my shoulders and they are reciprocating with a vengeance. I know, TMI. However, I went to North Carolina with 3 to visit 2 (I am, of course, 1) and fell in love with 2’s binding machine. You have no idea what a rush it is to discover it is within my power to generate little books. This is like…an entire bag of Hershey’s chocolate without the calories. However, to create little books you need material to put in them, and this has led to a review of all of the unemployed writing bursts lying around my dying hard drive.

Writing is addictive. There is nothing quite as gratifying as going back over something you have all but forgotten and thinking, Wow. That’s actually good. (And then, of course, because I am my mother’s daughter I feel the immediate obligation to address that whole big-headed, blowing-my-own-horn issue…or not. I am perhaps belatedly aging out of forced humility. I write well. If I am the only person who ever reads it, at least I can amuse myself.)

2, 3 and I had a wonderful time in North Carolina. We visited the Marsh Harbor Studio, which is a bead shop and art supply store, run by two wonderful women who excel not only at salesmanship, but in inspiring the inner artist. We ate out in a few of the many fine culinary establishments in New Bern. We felted dryer balls (I did. I like to start at the beginning. They crafted Christmas tree ornaments and small, cuddly woodland creatures.) I gave both sisters beads to go on earrings and then got distracted and never gave them the wires to hold them up. We did string art. We toured 2’s quilting room, relieving her of unnecessary overages. We admired her beautiful, exquisite quilts.

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Above you see the UnWee (left) and the Wee One (right) creating ‘lilies’. The UnWee is demonstrating an example and the Wee One is pulling the string that creates the image.

And now, sadly, I need to leave because I am to meet my friend at the bookstore and I am already late.

However, with any luck, I may come back. Perhaps in six months. Perhaps tomorrow…

 

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My Apologies

Well.

What a trip.

So,  if you, my six dear and gentle readers, remember, right around the changing of the annual guard I wrote a blog which suggested I might actually write another one. Soon. I felt inspired by the sound of my own voice, which is, unfortunately, something all readers have to learn to tolerate from the writers of the things they read.

And then…silence.

I did not enjoy that vacation anywhere near as much as you might think. I was attacked by the flu. And not any run-of-the-mill flu: a superflu that every now and then killed people, threw countless victims in the hospital and proudly earned the term ‘epidemic’. Nancy and I did not know that, right away. I got sick sunday night, she got sick sometime during the day monday and we were too busy wallowing in misery to worry much about what the rest of the world was doing.

I could tell you what we were doing, but you’ve either had the flu, or you can look up the symptoms on the internet. Let’s just say having the flu is pretty much a full-time occupation for a remarkably long period of time.

Eventually Nancy look up ‘Flu v cold’ on the internet and said, “Cheryl, we don’t have a cold. We have the flu–and the flu this year is BAD.” As it turns out, people over 65, people with asthma or COPD and fat people were encouraged to report immediately to the ER upon the first sign of the flu. We are both old, fat asthmatics. Unfortunately, full-blown symptoms of the flu–which was where we were–make appearing in public downright problematic, and my solution, at any rate, was the simply curl up in my chair and die at home.

So, enough about illness and disease. I did die. I also did not leave my house for 16 straight days. Trump is apparently still our president.

We were diligently guarded during our illness. Riley camped out next to my chair, and Annie curled up on the couch with Nancy. We were both home. Neither of us moved around much. Almost no one came to the house. Riley was able to reduce the number of trips he required in or out, and Annie spent remarkably little of her time at the window, reporting the malfeasance of the neighbors.

We are the next best thing to well now. Which means we move around. Nancy and I are, every now and again, in different rooms.

And the young man who lives across the street and who has yet to be seen in public in anything longer than gym shorts (he did, swear to God, shovel his driveway in ten-degree weather in shorts and a hoodie) has taken up inviting friends over to stand around in his front yard and do whatever people that age do in each other’s front yards in fifty-degree weather.

This has not gone unnoticed.

This has not gone unreported.

Annie is positioned in the front window right now, reporting infractions as they occur.

Nancy and I almost died of the flu and the only people who ever came near our house were the mail delivery and the guy who shovels our show. We do not just recklessly invite people over to our house. This is a quiet neighborhood: we go to work, come home, close the door and do not step outside again until time to go back to work.

Yes, we have chickens who occasionally cackle with glee when they’ve laid an egg, which they have just recently resumed doing. We have a dog that barks at the wind and a dog that barks at anything that moves in the back yard or the front. Otherwise, we are very, very quiet and we expect this of our neighbors as well.

We don’t, actually.

I have occasionally faulted Annie for her non-stop activity reports on the neighbor. I have actually heard myself say to her, “We allow him to do that. He is allowed four friends over a week, Annie.”

She wags  her tail (she is a amstaff-mix: her tail wags almost non-stop) and she runs back to the front window and starts barking: “Cheryl–he has five friends in his yard! Nancy–they’re taking hs car apart!”

“Women–a big leaf blew across the street!”

We may have slacked off a little of late, but Annie is ON IT.

 

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