Friday, January 27, 2012

"You remember me?"

Last month an old beat up car drove up my driveway and the driver, an old Asian man, yelled that question to me...many, many times.

I was in the middle of planting crocuses. Tilly had managed to retrieve some of them to tenderly chew while her brother walked off with the box that held all 500 of them. Well.....that's how many there were before the dogs got involved...and I noticed one of those dogs had walked off with my dibber too while I tried to get things in order while that car came to a stop.


I had never seen him before. I was sure I hadn't.

"You gave me beer. You gave me cake."

Well, that sounded like something I would do.......but I was pretty sure I had never met him before. But maybe I met him at the barbecue Aussie's family had earlier in the year so I asked him if that was where we met. Now it was his turn to look bewildered.

"Nah......You no remember? You give me beer. You give me cake."

I told him I think he probably had me confused with the previous owner of the land from years ago. She was a former beauty queen (he must have some crazy eyesight to have me confused with her).

He considered that and then we both confirmed to the other that we had never met. Glad that was figured out. Turns out he lives in a house up the road. Sarah told me that when I live in the country, be prepared for people to just drop by and walk right on in through your front door.

He enthusiastically related his biography. "I'm Korean. My wife, she white. I am 66 years old. We've been married 38 years. That too long."

He went on to say that he had two sons. One of them went to Harvard and is now living in the Philippines. What took me a little aback was not the Harvard education but that someone's kid actually moved some place that was not next door to his parents. It seems like everyone's kid moves next door or to some other house on the same property. Out in the country, you could say they live on family compounds.

He said that the house he lives in is the house his wife has lived in her entire life (I think she was born in it). They thought they might have to sell a couple years ago because of the economy but his wife cried and cried about that because she knew every tree on that property (and had probably grown up with a lot of them) and did not want to leave her trees behind. That just touched me. I guess my neighbor was able to keep the house by finding yet another job to add to the ones he already had and that kind of ends his story and mine for the day.

I don't have many photos from that day because of the unexpected long conversation, me trying to get approximately 500 crocuses into the ground, and then having to search for the garden tools that were not in my hands when I was talking to my neighbor. Those dogs wandered off with everything.

Bo did show up on a later day with a lost spade exactly when I needed it so I know everything I lost is still out there...I just have to be patient for their return. One day one of those dogs will show up with another one of my lost tools in his or her mouth and if garden tools could talk, I'm sure they'd say, "You remember me?" And I would!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More birdhouse perils

One mullet birdhouse went up...

...and then the other mullet birdhouse went up.

It was completely uneventful getting both of them up and that made me very, very happy...confident even. Those two houses looked good despite me having a hard time figuring out what straight was (even with a level) because I don't think one tree out there grows straight up.

But when I tried putting this birdhouse up, the tree immediately started to pour out sap as soon as I drilled a hole for the bolt that would hang it. The sap just gushed away. My confidence was gushing away too....panic had moved in.

That oak tree was shooting out so much sap that after a couple hours I took the birdhouse down because it was as sopping wet as the tree. This was horrible. What was going on? This has been an odd winter (all winters are odd to tell you the truth) what with day temperatures in the 40s and 50s and sometimes 60s and night temperatures in the 10s and 20s and 30s. Sap flows when the weather sets up like that but why this one tree and not the others....and why oh why would it not stop?

A couple weeks later, it was still leaking. I wasn't sure what I could do at this point...I was kind of thinking about putting a tampon in it. :-/

But rather than do that (!!!), I decided to wait...and hope that that tree figures out a way to heal itself soon. In the meantime, I put up the birdhouse I had removed earlier and hung it high on the hill...on a tree that stayed dry once I drilled a hole in it. If any other tree gushed like that one oak, that would be it for me regarding the drilling of any future holes in any future tree. It's not like the birds out there need my birdhouses anyway because there are plenty of dead hollow trees for cavity nesting birds to use for their nests. Makes me feel awful hurting a tree...I just don't want to risk doing that again.

But now confident with another birdhouse successfully put up without a tree crying about it, it was time to put up my very last birdhouse.

It was such a pretty day. Although the earth was brown and there was still ice on parts of the creek, the sky was a glorious blue and the temperature was in the.....60s! Fabulous.

That last birdhouse went up uneventfully....exactly what I was hoping for....and then I dropped (!!!!!!!?????!!!!!) my ratchet wrench.....directly down into the creek. Well, what's the big deal in that? Well, take a look at where my eye level is and where that cedar tree is in the distance. That's kind of high up.

And I had dropped my wrench in a wild part of the creek that I had never set foot on before...because the sides of the creek are steep from the top all the way down to the water. There are no flat areas on the banks (what banks?) to walk on. I also imagine lots of snakes hiding in and around all the rocks in the creek bed too. I couldn't get down the slope where I had just put up the birdhouse, it was too overgrown and too steep so I had to find a flatter area to cross the creek and then make my way back again to where the wrench was lying...

...on the thawing ice just a little bit beyond this tree. I have to admit it was kind of exciting because I had never been in that part of the creek before. Bo smartly stayed on the other side of the creek and distressingly cried and whimpered but Mary followed right behind me (with her 6 foot branch she kept whacking me with) while we made our way across the rock and ice and cold water to get to that darn wrench.

But hurray, it was retrieved! And if Mary and I could figure a way to easily navigate ourselves across the creek on the flatter parts ahead of us.... we could celebrate with some canine Costco confections once we got ourselves back to the "treatmobile." Which we did.

It was such a pretty day and I finally had all of those birdhouses up (three went up last year, nine went up this year!). What a great feeling.

When I drive to my land in Kansas, I cross the Kaw River and always think about stopping and taking a photo but before I complete that thought, I have already crossed the river. The sky had been beautiful all day...and when I stopped my car on the bridge because I had preplanned to do just that, the view of the setting sun was exquisite. A perfect ending to the completion of this year's birdhouse making and hanging project.

One last thought about birdhouses (probably because it took such a long time to get them put up and I still can't believe I'm finally done, done, done)...

Somebody has already expressed an interest in moving into this birdhouse I put up a couple weeks ago...or maybe they already have.

I had checked the other two woodpecker houses I put up last year to see if the interiors needed cleaning...which they did(!!!!!) maybe this birdhouse will see some baby flickers (or whatever was hatched in those other two birdhouses) this spring too. :-)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Birdhousing perils

I put up this little birdhouse a year ago...

And when I opened it up to clean it a couple weeks ago, I discovered paper wasps had built a nest in it.

Luckily, paper wasps are not supposed to be aggressive and the queen should be hibernating somewhere else anyway...and the rest of the wasps should have expired by now...but I'm just going to wait for a really, really cold day to remove the nest because I don't want to risk getting stung. Paper wasps are not supposed to return to a used nest the following year so hopefully this spring, once that nest is removed, baby birds will be raised in that house, not baby wasps.

When I was building this particular birdhouse, I had a feeling that that vine running across the roof might be poison ivy so I just carefully worked around it, being very careful not to touch it.

I was hoping it was Virginia creeper but just in case it wasn't, there was no way I was going to touch it. Birds are completely fine rubbing themselves all over every part of the poison ivy plant without any of its effects. They are the ones that eat and disperse the berries (and they find them delicious). The urushiol oil in poison ivy only affects humans. Leaving the vine on the birdhouse would not be a problem for the birds....but it would for me if I touched it.

See this? Those are poison ivy berries. I'm getting pretty good at identifying the stuff since I blistered up so many times last year.

And see this? The red spot on my cheek that Starlinka is checking out (there's also a rash starting on the side of my face....and on my scalp!!!)? Oh, that's poison ivy that has made contact with me somehow. But how when I was so darn careful when I was building that birdhouse?

Well, that was an easy one to figure out...

Who else but Stella Rubella Fullahella, the bird who was into something she shouldn't and she wasn't going to tella.

I had stored the birdhouse in the back room thinking it was out of the way of anybody getting near it but just a couple of unsupervised minutes and Stella had managed to get into the back room to do her house inspection. How else can you explain the weird patches on my cheek, the side of my face, the top of my scalp? Those are all the places that that bird tends to be near when she sits on my shoulder. Oh.....Stella. So many levels of bad with that bird, such talent when it comes to evil.

Well, I got that birdhouse out of my house as soon as I could so I wouldn't continuously get reexposed to the poison ivy oil. Who knows where else Stella had been in those unsupervised few minutes...and what else she had rubbed that urushiol oil off onto...hopefully not absolutely everything. She does get around.

I hung the birdhouse near the road that lines my land in Kansas. If anyone sees the birdhouse and tries to take it down....well, they are in for a surprise because that urushiol oil stays active for at least 3 years. Good for some moral payback if the birdhouse disappears (although I really don't expect that kind of thing to happen) but bad for me because that oil should be all over my house if I know Stella. And it kind of was. I kept breaking out for weeks but eventually whatever Stella smeared around the house dissipated.

You would think that would be it for me and poison ivy for the year but the same thing almost happened again when I put up another birdhouse a week ago.

There were two vines climbing up that tree and without the leaves.....I didn't know if they were grape vines or poison ivy vines or what so I avoided getting near them. I didn't think that much about them until Mary got hold of them and started swinging away like Tarzan. If I didn't get a big case of poison ivy, there still was the possibility of me leaping off the ladder to avoid her and then falling into the creek below.

Surprisingly, we all survived getting that birdhouse up with no mishaps. Whew. I kept Mary and her possibly poisoned mouth away from me on the walk back, got in the car, locked the doors and took off....and so far, I have not broken out in any blisters or rashes.

That sky was beautiful but as I left, what with all my exposure to poison ivy and chiggers and ticks this past summer, I thought it also looked like a big collection of medical cotton balls and swabs.

But still, spectacularly beautiful.

Friday, January 6, 2012


A year or so ago I started making birdhouses. I still have no idea where or what or when exactly I'm going to build my house on Aussie's Acers (how they spell "acre" on signs in the country) but in the meantime, I've been busy creating my future avian subdivision.

Once a house is built, it has to stay outside (or hidden somewhere indoors) until it moves to its final spot because Stella gets a little too dedicated and critical with her house inspection.

"I think that door needs to be a little wider..."

Here's an example of what results when the housing inspector starts remodeling...

Anyway, the first birdhouse went up about a year ago...

And when I went to check on it last week...

I found out that Stella was right.

That door apparently did need to be widened.