Sunday, April 26, 2020

Special visitors!

It's been a grand weekend for birdwatching at our house. For the past month, I had purposely left the feeder empty because our seed was getting devoured in an afternoon by a flock of pesky cowbirds. After most of the flock seemed to have moved on (there are still a few individuals around) I finally refilled the feeder on Thursday. By that night, the Cardinals, House Finches, and Carolina Wrens were back. On Saturday, a rare beautiful bird showed up and has been hanging around ever since: a Painted Bunting!

Painted Buntings are uncommon this far inland, and a little research indicates that they're somewhat in decline these days, too. My dad used to see them regularly when he was a boy living on the coast in Murrell's Inlet, South Carolina and I knew he'd be excited to hear about our visitor. I've taken a bunch of pictures over the last few days, and this is the best one I was able to get considering I'm sitting several feet away, behind the screen on the porch, and all I had was my camera phone. The focus isn't great, but you can really see this male's coloring at least.

We've also seen a yellowish-green female but not as often. The little male is at the feeder all day long. 

Yesterday morning we got more surprise visitors at the feeder: two male and three female Rose Breasted Grosbeaks! That was a first for us. They also spent all day yesterday flying to and from the feeder, feasting on seeds. I think they're probably just migrants passing through and getting refueled as they journey North for the summer. Here's a photo of one of the males:

Isn't he dashing, with his sharp black and white coloring and then that blood-red splash of color on his breast? 

And finally, I was able to film some of these feeder visitors in the clip I'm sharing below. You have the Painted Bunting who's joined by a Carolina Wren, a female Rose Breasted Grosbeak (sadly, neither of the males showed up during these few minutes....the girl is the dull colored bird with a streaky breast), and finally, a Red Bellied Woodpecker made an appearance! 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Interesting read

I wanted to share an article I read this morning from the website about the global coronavirus crisis. I found it interesting and well-written and I think a lot of my readers will, too. If you read it I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Earth Day ramblings

In the midst of all the bad news right now, I find comfort in the fact that all over the Earth, air pollution and carbon emissions are the lowest they've been in decades. To see stunning side by side photographs of the skyline of major cities around the world pre- and during the Covid 19 pandemic check out this link. If only people could learn from this and modify their behavior upon the return to "normal" life! I don't have much faith in that, though. People never do seem to learn, do they?

Our state Governor McMaster announced today that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. I'm not surprised, and it's the right decision to make. I expected to feel sad about it, but I've already felt that way in the last few weeks and have mostly gotten over it. Hopefully things will be safer in late July when teachers and staff are set to go back and begin a new school year. If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I wouldn't work for over 4 months, I wouldn't have been able to imagine why (short of getting fired or something). I'm thankful to still have my regular salary coming to me. I'm also thrilled to say that our Superintendent pushed a vote through the school board to give every single employee in our district a $1000 bonus at the end of this month! That was a nice surprise and will certainly come in handy! Gregg isn't working much at all and we're still waiting on our $2400 stimulus payment to come through.

A few more odds and ends to finish off this post.

I went to the grocery store last night on one of my infrequent trips, and since I've started wearing a mask, I thought I ought to take a selfie of it for the archives:

While shopping a few minutes later, I saw toilet paper for the first time in 6 weeks!!! Score!

The only reason I found toilet paper was I hit the timing perfectly: a truck had just arrived and it was getting put out when I walked past the aisle. I'm sure the small shipment of it that they got was sold out within 20 minutes!

The week after Easter, I had a leftover ham bone with a lot of meat left on it. I decided to make ham and vegetable soup in the crock pot for freezing in meal sized portions.

I felt like I deserved a damn Housewife of the Year award when the last of that deliciousness was sealed away in Tupperware and frozen. My husband was thrilled with me for being so frugal--not only did I use the leftover hambone, but I had a half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables taking up space in the freezer and several cans of plum tomatoes sitting in the back of the pantry, too, so no additional money had to be spent. Now we have three nice suppers in the freezer made entirely of leftovers! I've been doing so much cooking from scratch lately that all the quick, convenience, and junk food on offer at the grocery store yesterday didn't look appealing at all. Homemade is so much better, and cheaper, and in a lot of cases it's probably healthier too (although granted I've gone through quite a bit of real butter lately).

We're hoping to learn to live with less waste than we have in the past after the danger from this virus is over, more frugally, and with less excess. I truly want to make this time mean something in my life going forward and I'd like to do better in a lot of ways. More about this later.

And one last thing that I should mention, as it's Earth Day plus all over the world the skies are clearer than usual: tonight the Lyrid meteor shower peaks! The best viewing is always predawn, but even if you don't get up early, all night long you're real likely to see shooting stars if you'll only look. Think of all the wishes you can make!

Have a good night, my friends.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Porch garden

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous. Cool, sunny, blue-sky days are followed by crisp, clear, starry nights. You couldn't ask for anything better. Being outdoors all day has been a joy and the best part of all this time off at home.

The yard has never looked better.  Everything is neat and trimmed, weeded and mown. The porch has been thoroughly cleaned. I even mopped it with Fabuloso (of course I thought of Mary!) and the tile floor smelled nice afterward and feels good on bare feet. All of our houseplants have gone out there to spend the next few months, and I added two beautiful hanging baskets of Boston ferns, purchased at the small open air farmer's market where I go to buy fresh vegetables. The porch is definitely my happy place these days.

The fig tree that I started from my friend Carol's cuttings last summer.
 I may plant it in the yard this fall. 

The orchids seem happy outside.

Handsome Georgie enjoys the porch!

Ginger thought I was holding a morsel of food. (I wasn't.)

The little ornamental pomegranate given to me by a friend. 
If you look closely, you can see tiny little fruit buds popping up all over it.

Speaking of pomegranates, I had one that I grew from a small seedling in a large pot for years
 prior to moving here. A year ago, I planted it in the ground beside the porch. It's shot up to about 7 feet tall, and it also has fruit (or are they flower?) buds for the first time. 

We've had this ficus for longer than we've been married. It was largely neglected for years when the little sparrow Chip lived in it, but it's always managed to hang on. We're hoping to grow it out some on the porch this summer. It will go back in our den late in the fall.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Anyone else....?

Anyone else having trouble getting a decent night's sleep lately?

I toss and turn, wake up over and over, and sometimes lie awake at 3 or 4am completely unable to go back to sleep for hours. I'm dreaming a lot and most of my dreams are at least mildly stressful. I don't feel rested when I get up in the morning. This is highly unusual for me. Is it the disruption in my normal daily schedule, stress, or some combination of the two? I don't know, but it's making me unhappy.

How are you sleeping these days?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Animals, tame and wild

Marco's almost finished with his winter molt, and I must say, his feathers are looking beautiful this year. Spending plenty of time on the porch soaking up sunlight is obviously good for him.

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Speaking of animals on the porch, this little guy showed up the other day and was also soaking up the sunshine. We've been seeing these blue-tailed skinks around for a couple of weeks now. They're actually called American five lined skinks (Plestiodon fasciatus), and they only have this coloring when they're juveniles. They lose the blue color as they get older and then their heads turn red, so this one will look totally different once it grows up.

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In other animal sighting news, yesterday Gregg and I went over to the nature trail that's less than a block from our house and took a little walk. We only saw one other human, a guy out running. Way back in the woods, beside a stream that's part of the creek, we saw a fox walking silently along the water's edge. That was a treat! I thought of  Meike and Neil and their love of foxes. We also saw a large pond slider turtle, sitting in a patch of sunlight in the mud. I didn't have my phone with me and so sadly I didn't get any photos. As we were getting in our car, we heard two barred owls calling to each other, which was strange considering it was the middle of the day. We hear them all the time at night. I wonder what they were up to? A quick Google search indicates that they do indeed sometimes call to each other and hunt during the day. Not too long ago we were out walking the dogs after dark and we saw one of them (thanks to a street light) land in a tall pine tree in front of us. Thanks to the close proximity of the creek, we see and hear all sorts of wildlife. We made a good choice when we picked this house to buy.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter! Have a smile.

Happy Easter everyone! I was feeling pretty depressed yesterday, so I'm trying hard to have a better day today. I bought a ham last week that I'm going to be baking, and I'm planning to make deviled eggs and biscuits to go with it. On Friday I went to the strawberry farm and got a beautiful basket of berries and I think I'll bake a cake, too. If only we could have friends over to share our feast with......but enough of that. I realize we're lucky. And in case you're feeling down on this Easter Sunday, too, here's a few funny/cute memes I found to share.

Have a nice day, everyone.Image may contain: food, possible text that says '2020 Limited Edition Easter Peeps Peeps'

Image may contain: flower, possible text that says 'I SAID NO GROUPS LARGER THAN 10 PEEPS!'

Image may contain: possible text that says 'I AM HERE Το KICK ASS AND CHEW CARROTS. AND I AM ALL OUT OF CARROTS...'

This next one's for Dr. Spo:

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And finally, some pretty art from my favorite greeting card artist, Marjolein Bastin:

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No photo description available.

Image may contain: flower and plant, possible text that says 'Where flowers bloom, so does hope. Lady Bird Bird Johnson'

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Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Bartering, and boredom

Sunday night I texted my chicken raising friend and asked if I could buy some more eggs from her. I've been baking, and baking uses up a lot of eggs. Later on that night, I posted a picture on Facebook of the two loaves of banana bread that had just come out of the oven:

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The next morning a got a text from the chicken lady asking if I'd be willing to trade a loaf of banana bread for the eggs! That made me laugh, and of course I agreed. She says that she's not much of a cook, and her family loves banana bread. It's quick and easy to make, so I'll be baking more for us over the next couple of days. My husband loves it, too.

I hate to admit this, but the past few days I've been bored. There's plenty of home improvement projects I could be working on, plenty of books to read and tv shows to watch, craft projects I've put off for years, etc. Somehow, for the last two days, I've been incapable of doing much of anything but just sitting around. I'm mildly embarrassed at the number of naps I've been taking; after all, I haven't been doing much of anything to be tired from. We take the dogs on nightly walks but that's about it for physical exercise. I'm tired of doing housework or other useful things. I feel guilty for feeling bored with everything going on in the world and I know that I'm lucky to be safely at home, and not sick, and still able to pay the bills into the bargain. Deep down I'm ashamed at my lack of productivity and this pervasive feeling of ennui.

After I finish the post I'm going to force myself to get a few things done today. The dogs (especially George) need baths. Marco's main cage needs cleaning. The porch needs mopping to get rid of the half inch of pollen coating the floor, and the laundry, which was caught up just the other day, is already piling up again. On a related note, how are two people who aren't even working managing to go through so much laundry? I don't understand it. Anyway, maybe if I give myself a good kick int he pants and go get some stuff done I'll feel better.

How are you coping? How are you feeling? Are you making good use of your time, or are you like me and just drifting along kind of aimlessly through the days? I'd love to know.

Sunday, April 5, 2020


South Carolina is one of a handful of states that is still without a "stay at home" order. Although all non essential businesses have been ordered to close, there are still plenty of stores open that, to my mind, really push the boundaries of "essential". Our beaches and state parks were finally closed last week, and about time, too. Far too many people are still (still!) not taking social distancing seriously enough.

There's a reporter/photographer for our local newspaper who used to be a parent volunteer at the school where I work. Her oldest child is a senior in high school this year. On Friday, the first day of our district's spring break, she published a series of photos in the paper of her son and his baseball teammates cavorting around a swimming pool at one of the boy's homes. She made a throwaway comment at the end about the boys celebrating "while being mindful of social distancing guidelines". I call bullshit. Look at these photos. Do these young men look like they're being mindful of being 6 feet apart at all times to you?

COVID-19 images Friday from Florence

COVID-19 images Friday from Florence

She went on to lament the fact that the boys had planned to spend spring break at the beach, but now they can't because of the Covid-19 restrictions. Some of her fellow parents of seniors (mostly all upper middle class white women) have been on social media whining about their poor little babies who are going to miss prom and graduation this year.


I can't stand the entitlement. It just burns me up. Look, I get it. I know that high school seniors are disappointed to miss out on major milestones, and I would have been disappointed at that age, too. But what about civic responsibility? What about self sacrifice for a greater good? These young people (especially ones like the boys in these photos) have never wanted for a single thing in their whole lives. The mother of one of them actually complained to me last month about how their "last family vacation (to Rome) before her son leaves for college" had been ruined. These kids are steeped in privilege. Their grandfathers and great grandfathers were called to war; these boys are being called to the sofa, and they act as if that's a hardship.

I know I'm not a parent, but if I was, I would try my hardest to impress on my kids that sometimes we must sacrifice our selfish wants for a higher purpose. Life isn't fair, and if the most they're ever called upon to do is miss out on some parties and celebrations, then they will have been among the most blessed people on the face of this earth. That they have a responsibility to their fellow humans, especially those who have less than them. And that it's unseemly in the extreme for newly grown up men and women to whine and complain while some essential workers in their community are risking their lives to mitigate this crisis.


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Saturday pet photos

First of all, my Kitchen Assistant:

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Next, a very happy dog grinning as she "fights" her big dumb brother. She always wins!

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And finally, post fight: "Where's our breakfast?!"

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There's never any lack of entertainment in this house with Marco, Ginger, and George around!